TRAPPED inside her house at Tumpuna Gardens, Arima, retired public servant Elinor Gittens died on Tuesday night of what fire officials suspect was smoke inhalation.
Fire officials said neighbours called them to Gittens’ home at about 7.15 pm. The neighbours had heard explosions and then saw a couch on fire before the house was consumed in flames.
Gittens's body was found in a corridor in the house with minor burns.
Speaking with the media at his sister’s home, George Gittens said the 74-year-old had fortified her home, mostly to keep herself in, rather than keep others out. It was the creation of this "fortress" that led to her death, as fire officials told him that the blaze began near the only exit, trapping her inside.
Gittens said since their sister, former diplomat Yvonne Gittens-Joseph, died, Elinor was never the same.
“Seven years ago (my) next sister died and she was never the same after that. A couple months prior they had some rift, and she figure she should have let it slide and be communicating, because they were very close before that, and our sister’s death was sudden.”
Gittens said since then his older sister had become withdrawn, refusing to use cellphones, and did not want electricity. He described her as being very strong-willed even before the loss of their sister and even more after her death.
“A neighbour said he heard her shouting ‘Get out my house,' sometime before the fire start. When she was 'normal' her memory was sharp. She had no ailments or anything like that, but when she was out of it, you couldn’t speak to her.”
He recalled at one time his sister had chased him with a cutlass after he told her to be careful, as she would sometimes burn garbage in the garage. When she could not catch him, she broke his car glass.
“I have not been inside that house for seven years. Sometimes she will speak to me from inside her house and I will be by the gate. Other times she will put a chair in the garage and we will sit there and talk.”
Gittens said a neighbour told him that some four hours before the fire, another neighbour called police for his sister after she threw bottles into his yard. He said that neighbour and his sister were always at odds and she would be accused of throwing stones at their house. That neighbour was not at home when Newsday visited.
He said he last saw his sister alive a few weeks ago in Arima and when she spotted him, she crossed the road to avoid him.
“I realise that a certain time, mentally, she used to 'go off,'” he said adding that as far as he was aware, she never received any kind of professional help to deal with the loss of their sister.