Father of fatal fire victims speaks out
OKLAHOMA CITY– Matthew Leon will have to bury all four of his children on Saturday.
They all died in a house fire the day after Christmas while staying with Leon’s ex-wife.
Leon said, “We were out the door in three minutes. We didn’t think it was going to be this bad. It’s something you never think will happen to you. It’ll never happen to my family. It’ll never happen to my kids.”
It was around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday that Oklahoma City firefighters rushed to the house in the 2800 block of Dorchester Drive.
When fire crews arrived, they found flames shooting from the home, caused by a space heater that was placed too close to a sofa.
The flames were so intense, firefighters were not able to go inside the home.
Jeanine Bonnet, 28, died in that fire. Her three children with Leon, 8-year-old Natalie, 7-year-old Samantha and 5-year-old Matthew Jr., were also killed.
Leon’s daughter with his girlfriend Jessica, 3-year-old Kara, died in the fire as well.
He and his girlfriend live in Newcastle and they got a call about the fire just after 7 a.m.
“The kids stayed at my house during the week for school and they came up here on the weekends. And they had a whole week off for Christmas and they were staying up here the whole week, all four of them,” said Leon. “They were supposed to come back home today. They were supposed to come home today.”
Bonnet’s boyfriend, Brian Poletto, jumped from the second story of the house and Leon says he tried to use a ladder to rescue the kids.
“They got him in a chemical coma. They’re not going to let him wake up for 3 or 4 weeks. He might lose one of his hands. He’s burnt real bad,” said Leon.
Leon says he had a good relationship with his ex-wife and the entire family had celebrated Christmas in the now gutted home.
Ironically, Leon says he was having electrical problems at his home in Newcastle and was afraid of a fire there. He moved the tree up to Bonnet’s home she was renting in Oklahoma City.
Leon and Jessica Petersen said, “We took the tree, the presents, everything up here. We brought it all up here. And Jeanine was so excited because she had a big family Christmas. The kids had a blast.”
Leon and Petersen will bury Bonnet and the kids on Saturday.
They’re not calling it a funeral, but a celebration of life, a chance for them to remember the people they were.
Leon calls Bonnet a dedicated mother.
He says Natalie was the big sister, always ready to help out.
Samantha was a sweetie pie and always tattled on the others and made sure they followed the rules.
Mattie Jr. thought he was Superman and was always jumping on the bed.
And Kara, the baby, they described as a diva who would change clothes several times a day and liked to watch girlie movies.
“They were wonderful, all of them,” said Leon.
Authorities say there were no working smoke detectors in the home, so the fire had a big head start on the family.
The house on Dorchester Drive is scheduled to be demolished sometime this week.
The celebration of life service is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at Summit Church in Newcastle.