February 1, 2014

Fire survivors struggle in aftermath


---- — MALONE — Physicians hope Jared Smith will be able to breathe without the help of a ventilator by Monday. 

The burns the Malone teen suffered in the house fire that killed his mother, Pamela Taylor, on Tuesday were healing well at Fletcher Allen Health Care, according to his father, Kevin Smith.

His son had been responsive but in tremendous pain when he was brought to Alice Hyde Medical Center on Tuesday morning.

Jared also couldn’t see at that time, Kevin said, and once he was in Burlington, he was too heavily medicated to say whether he could or not.

Yet by Friday afternoon, Kevin said, Jared had nodded when asked if he could see. Whether his vision had been damaged, though, wasn’t yet known.

The 19-year-old was in stable but serious condition on Friday.

The ventilator had been removed Wednesday afternoon but was put in use again after one of Jared’s lungs collapsed overnight.

As of Friday night, doctors planned to keep him on the ventilator until Monday. His vitals will be monitored to determine when it will be safe enough to try taking it off again. 

A scope inserted into Jared’s lungs Friday afternoon showed good signs of healing, Kevin said.   


Jared, his mother and her boyfriend, Vernon Rivers, had been upstairs sleeping when the fire started at the 20 South St., home. 

Taylor woke them up and called 911, Rivers said, and he began looking for a way to escape. 

With smoke filling the room, Rivers broke out a window and leaped into a nearby truck.

“Between all the fire and mishaps, Jared went downstairs out the front door,” he said.

Though he wasn’t sure, Rivers had believed Taylor followed her son down toward the first floor.

But when Jared emerged emerged from the home, his mother wasn’t with him.

Running back in, Rivers found the kitchen in flames and tried to locate Taylor in the smoke-filled house. 

He began shouting her name and was able to hear her shout back, he said. 

But the fire raged on, and his search was cut short.

“I got pulled out (by) the cops,” he said.


Rivers was brought to Alice Hyde, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released. 

Firefighters found Taylor’s body that afternoon, upstairs. An autopsy determined she had died from asphyxiation from smoke inhalation.

As of Friday, Rivers was staying with friends in Malone, as investigation into the cause of the fire continued.

Malone Village Police Chief Chris Premo said that determination had yet to be made.


Though living many hours away, Rivers’s brother-in-law Richard Garrison was moved to take action after hearing about the fire.

“It’s hard because we’re down in North Carolina, and we can’t be up there to support them,” he said.

Remembering an online fundraiser a niece had organized, Garrison took to the Internet to offer his long-distance support.

He set up an account on the crowdfunding website GiveForward, where anyone with a credit or debit card donate to those affected by the fire.

Garrison remembered Taylor as a kind, friendly woman who loved three things: her family, her boyfriend and 1980s pop singer Rick Springfield.

Thinking back through his 11-year relationship with Taylor, Rivers said their happiest memories were being together in the audience of countless Springfield concerts.

“We were always having the best time of our lives,” he said.

They went to at least 10 Springfield shows a year, he said. 

Though Taylor didn’t have one favorite song in particular, it was Springfield’s 1981 hit “Jessie’s Girl” that started the obsession.


Taylor, 45, had built up a large collection of Springfield memorabilia over the years.

“She had glasses, cups, T-shirts, jackets,” Rivers said. “She had pretty much everything that you could order.”

That collection was destroyed in the fire.

Rivers has put out a call for any Springfield fans to donate memorabilia that Rivers hopes to place in Taylor’s casket to be buried with her.

No funeral date had been set, as the family wants to wait for Jared to recover enough to attend the service.

Along with Jared, Taylor had four other children: Jared’s twin brother, Jordan; Justin, 23; Jefferey, 21; and Jacob, 8. 

Taylor, Rivers said, was a giver, always willing to help others.

“Basically, if anybody needed anything, she would be there, especially for her kids.” 



To donate to the online fundraiser to assist Pamela Taylor's loved ones with medical cost and funeral expenses, visit:

To contribute clothing or other items, mail to or drop off at the home of Kevin Smith, 49 Coffee Street, Malone, NY, 12953.

To reach Vernon Rivers about giving Springfield memorabilia to be buried with Pamela Taylor, call 353-4565.