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8-year-old girl dies after being found in Akron house fire; officials call blaze 'suspicious'

Authorities say the girl died shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday.

AKRON, Ohio — To see the scene, the tragedy of 8-year-old Roniah Boswell Bartee seems unimaginable.

She never woke up as a fire tore through her Akron home on 18th Street Southwest. It all happened within four minutes of a 911 call from neighbors around 4:15 a.m. Tuesday. She was later pronounced dead at Cleveland Clinic Akron Children's Hospital.

Four adults and one other child were inside when the home burst into flames, everybody able to evacuate the residence except for the 8-year-old girl. With Roniah apparently on the second floor, firefighters attempted to enter, with one burning his hands and legs (he was later released from the hospital). As the situation played out, the girl's mother stood by in horror.

"I was able to speak with mom earlier today," Lt. Sierjie Lash of the Akron Fire Department told 3News while appearing to fight back tears. "[She was], as you would expect, very, very heartbroken, very, very broken down as to why her daughter is not with her."

The heartbreak extended to crews on scene, many of whom were exhausted from fighting a fire on hours before that saw another child trapped.

"These are difficult for a lot of reasons, and most of it is because everybody, just about everybody on the job, has children," Akron fire union president Kevin Gostkowski said. "Obviously, we all do this because we want to help people and make sure that we make a difference, and unfortunately, today we came up a little short, but that won't stop us from going on the next call."

Roniah was a student at Akron Prepatory School, which is now trying to help students and staff heal. In the meantime, investigators from both Akron and the State Fire Marshal's division were investigating the scene all day, and tell 3News the blaze looks "suspicious." However, no further details on a cause have been given at this time.

The American Red Cross is assisting those displaced by the fire, which includes two adults from the other side of the home.

Authorities say the situation remains under investigation.

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