Hamden family turns tragedy into a chance to teach, 15 years later

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HAMDEN -- A Hamden family remembers young Jamie Lynn Sullivan, as Tuesday, December 27th, marks 15 years since she tragically lost her life in one of the worst house fires the Town of Hamden has ever seen.

Since that fire, that killed one adult and two young children, Jamie’s family has worked to turn their tragedy into a chance to raise awareness of the importance of smoke detectors in the home.

“She was a shining star, she danced, she was a wonderful soccer player and hoped to someday play professionally,” Jamie’s aunt, Andre Koch, said about her niece’s aspirations.

Koch now, with her mother, running a foundation in Jamie’s namesake.

“I don't want someone else to someone else's family to have to go through the pain and endurance the suffering that we went it was tragic,” Koch told Fox 61, saying that pain could have been prevented by something as simple as a smoke detector.

The day of the house fire that took her niece’s life, Koch said Jamie had gone to a sleepover at a friend’s house. That night, a father, his step-son and 9-year-old Jamie, didn’t make it out of that fire alive.

Fire Marshals in town later told the family there were no working smoking detectors in the home that night. Koch now left only with the memories and daydreams of who Jamie would have grown up to be.

“I think: 'What we should be like? Who is she marrying? What would she be doing? What she would look like?'"Koch said.

She called those thoughts her motivation to keep the Jamie Lynn Sullivan Foundation going, raising awareness, spreading education, and raising funds to get smoke detectors into all family’s homes.

“I mean if you have working smoke detectors and you know maybe you know you could get out. That one simple thing could save a life for many,” Koch said.

That same mission also shared by the fire department in Hamden’s neighboring town in Wallingford.