Babysitter had left when fire ignited that killed toddler, investigators say

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Cathy Hernandez - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - A “relatively small” apartment fire has come at a huge cost for a family in southwest Harris County.

Authorities said the fire started on the kitchen stovetop of a third-story apartment on Sierra Blanca Drive near Presidio Square Boulevard around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

There were only two people inside the unit when firefighters arrived, authorities said - a 3-year-old boy, who family members identified as Giovanni Lyles, and his 19-year-old relative who was babysitting him.

Family Photo

Giovanni Lyles is seen in this undated photo provided by family members on March 11, 2019.

The relative who was supposed to be babysitting the child told authorities she had left the child home alone while she went to the store, and when she returned there was heavy smoke coming from the unit.

According to authorities, the child and woman were transported to the hospital, where the child later died from smoke inhalation. The boy's mother was working at the time of the fire but went to the hospital when she heard the news.

The relative is also being treated for smoke inhalation.

"Anytime we go to a fire and there is a fatality, it's absolutely horrific and it's hard to deal with, especially when there's a child involved," said Rachel Moreno with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "We're talking about 2 and a half years old. It's still a baby."

Firefighters were able to put the blaze out with just two water cans, authorities said.

Authorities said the fire was contained to the unit. There were smoke detectors inside, but authorities said they did not hear smoke alarms when they arrived.

"What we're here to do is to figure out what happened and hopefully we can educate people and prevent this in the future," said Moreno.

Tobi Omole, a family friend, said the babysitter tried to perform CPR on the child but it was too late.

“She rushed to do CPR on the child, he didn’t come back," Omole said. “(His mother) is very distraught, she’s going through a lot, but she’ll be alright. (Giovanni) was a cute, playful child, he always ran around, he always laughed.”

Editor's note: The relation of the child's babysitter was updated after family members spoke with KPRC and provided information that differed from what investigators originally said.

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