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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Mother could not save child from fire

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

WAHIAWA Christina Nunes stood helplessly at the entrance to the burning front bedroom of her apartment. Through the flames, she could see her son about 10 feet away.

"My baby was standing by the closet, his back to me," the 30-year-old Nunes said yesterday. Fighting tears, she continued, "I wanted to get in; I tried to get him, but the fire was blazing."

A couple of seconds then seems like an eternity now.

Nathaniel Nunes, who celebrated his second birthday March 30, didn't survive Sunday's fire in apartment C-3 at 284 California Ave.

Nathaniel was the youngest of Nunes' four children.

Her eldest Dante and Damien Ticman, ages 8 and 6 ran out of the front door of the second-floor walkup when the fire started, their mother said.

When Nunes turned away from the bedroom entrance, she picked up her 3-year-old daughter, Ulani Nunes, who had been sleeping in the living room, alerted her mother, Linda Ticman, who was in another bedroom, and headed for the lanai in back of her unit. She doesn't recall yelling or screaming.

"I was just scared," said Christina Nunes. "The whole point by then was to get Ulani out."

The fire destroyed her photographs of Nathaniel.

The death of her son came after another tragedy. Her husband, 32-year-old Jonathan F. Nunes, was stabbed to death in Wahiawa in November 2004, eight months after Nathaniel's birth.

"It hurts, and I'm trying to stay strong for my three children," Nunes said.

She will remember her son as "very happy, quiet and loving."

Jack D. Smith, a Honolulu police chaplain and lead pastor of Wahiawa Community Church of the Nazarene, married Jonathan and Christina and was in the delivery room when Nunes gave birth to Nathaniel.

While comforting the boy's mother yesterday, Smith said, "Nathaniel breathed life. This is like a rosebud that doesn't open completely. A storm knocked it off the branch before it blossomed.

"I see him as the young boy, standing there holding my knee," Smith added. "He always had that little grin. I never heard him cry. He was just a nice, peaceful child."

An autopsy found the cause of death to be carbon monoxide inhalation. How the 2:30 p.m. fire started is under investigation, but there was no evidence of foul play, police said. Damage was estimated at $60,000.

A funeral was pending.

In addition to his mother and siblings, Nathaniel's survivors include his maternal grandparents, Linda and Harry Ticman; paternal grandparents, James Nunes Sr., and Lorraine and Sinclair Taniguchi; and uncles and aunts.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.