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Mother, toddler die in Brevard house fire

Cause of blaze under investigation

A woman and baby die in a Palm Bay house fire.
A woman and baby die in a Palm Bay house fire.


PALM BAY, Fla. – A woman and her 2-year-old daughter were killed Friday morning in a house fire in Brevard County, according to officials.

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Officials identified the victims as 27-year-old Shenea Gates and her daughter, Rhilynn.

The fire broke out at a home in the 2800 block of Southwest Foxglove Avenue in Palm Bay.  Officials said smoke alarms inside the home were not working. 

Police said a waste management employee working his route reported smoke coming from the home.

When firefighters arrived, they found two victims inside the home. Firefighters and paramedics began resuscitation efforts, but Gates and her daughter died at the scene, police said.

Palm Bay officials said the fire appears to have started in the laundry room, and both victims were asleep when Shenea Gates woke up to the smoke in the house. 

Officials said it's believed that when Gates attempted to pinpoint the source of the smoke, she opened the laundry room door and was overcome by flames and smoke.  She attempted to return to her bedroom but was unable to escape.

"It's always tough with things like this. I mean, it's not nearly as tough as it is for the families who go through these tragedies. Our focus is on them and not us at this time," said John Wresh, of the Palm Bay Police Department.

Shenea Gates' boyfriend was out of the county when the fire started, Palm Bay officials said.

"This is one of those unfortunate and tragic accidents," said Palm Bay fire official Ron Bailey.  "We are still working with the state fire marshal's office to confirm the exact cause of the fire."

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