6-year-old girl dead, man charged after van catches fire in Walmart parking lot

A girl has died and another was seriously injured after the van they were in caught fire Tuesday morning in the parking lot of a Walmart in Fridley, Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Prosecutors have charged 70-year-old Roberto Lino Hipolito, of Long Beach, California, with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of negligent fire connected to the incident, The Associated Press reported.

Update 1 p.m. EDT Aug. 8: In a criminal complaint obtained by the AP, authorities said Hipolito and his wife slept overnight in their van and that surveillance footage showed Hipolito "cooking something on the stove, then putting it in the van before going into the store."

The van caught fire and spread to an adjacent van, where police say two girls were alone up to an hour Tuesday morning as their mother shopped at the store.

Anoka County Sheriff's Lt. Daniel Douglas told the Star Tribune that Ty'rah White, 6, died Tuesday night at the Hennepin County Medical Center. Her sister, 9-year-old Taraji, remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman told the Star Tribune.

"My baby Ty'rah, she was such a bright kid. Very bright," the girls' mother, Essie McKenzie, told WCCO-TV. "She loved people. She had a huge personality."

McKenzie told WCCO-TV she let her daughters keep sleeping Tuesday while she ran into Walmart to grab something. Sheriff's office officials said McKenzie cooperated with law officers at the scene.

Original report: Two children were critically injured in a Walmart parking lot Tuesday morning in Fridley, Minnesota, when the van they were in caught on fire.

The girls, ages 6 and 9, were in the vehicle waiting for their mother to return from the store when the van parked next to theirs burst into flames, KARE-TV reported.

The fire quickly engulfed the vehicle, trapping the girls inside, the news station reported.

Emergency responders managed to rescue the children, but they suffered severe injuries in the fire, including burns and smoke inhalation. They’re hospitalized in critical condition.

The owner of the van that initially burst into flames was arrested on suspicion of "negligent fires," the Anoka County Sheriff's Office said, according to KARE.

"The fire was very intense, an awful lot of smoke and flames. There were windows exploding and even parts from inside the vehicle that were shooting outside as far as 30 or 40 feet from the vehicle," Lt. Jim Mork told the station.

The children’s mother was inside the store for possibly as long as an hour. It’s unclear whether she’ll face charges in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author