CHICAGO — A journalist who worked to cover the City’s Southwest Side is dead, and her father is in the intensive care unit after a fire consumed their Brighton Park home last week.
Family members told WGN News the Villaseñor family gathered in front of their house Friday evening as flames spread throughout the building, except for 31-year-old Rocio Villaseñor, who was asleep in her bedroom in the attic.
Rocio’s sister, Marisol Villaseñor, said her brother and father ran toward a strong noise when the fire erupted.
“They all heard a loud explosion in the back of the home,” Marisol Villaseñor said. “As soon as they opened the door, a ball of black smoke came in and all they saw were flames … My dad ran directly into the flames.”
Unfortunately, 69-year-old Crecencio Villaseñor couldn’t reach his daughter and hours later, the family found out Rocio did not survive the fire. After first responders arrived at the fire, Crecencio Villaseñor was taken to a local hospital in critical condition with third-degree burns.
Now, Rocio’s sister Marisol is trying to hold onto her any way she can, and speaking up for her family as her dad recovers in the hospital.
“I found this ring that was hers, it’s a purple ring, and the necklace was given to me recently and it says sisters are forever best friends,” Marisol Villaseñor said. “It has two purple hearts.”
“My dad is in critical condition and though he is stable right now, he has a lot, a lot of surgeries ahead,” Marisol Villaseñor added. “It’s heartbreaking to know that he couldn’t get to her, but to know that he would do that … any loving parent would do that for their child.”
Rocio was a journalist for Block Club Chicago who worked to cover Brighton Park, Little Village and Chinatown for the non-profit news outlet. Block Club Chicago released the following statement after Rocio’s death:
“She was a talented journalist who deeply cared about her community and wanted to make the city a better place for everyone.”Block Club Chicago
As Marisol and her other family members take turns being there with their father in the hospital, they said they still want to know what caused the explosion and how Rocio died — answers they still do not have.
“We’re still trying to get to the bottom of what happened,” Marisol Villaseñor said. “Knowing her, she was a journalist as well, she would want us to get the facts.”
WGN News has reached out to the Chicago Fire Department and Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office (CCMEO) for more details behind the fire at the Villaseñors’ home in Brighton Park. According to the CCMEO, the cause and manner of death are still pending.