Henley and Nikki Dunbar. Contributed photo.
KINGSPORT — The family of a Kingsport woman, who died along with her 3-year-old son following a Tuesday fire, said Friday they are coming to terms with the loss but are taking comfort in the fact she saved other people through organ donation.
“They’re saving her heart, both kidneys, her liver, and pancreas,” said Nikki Dunbar’s mother, Teresa M. Dollar, as the family prepared for the process of organ donation “So that’s five lives that she saved today.”
“I know that’s what she would have wanted,” added Nikki’s brother, Travis Ramey. “She cared for people. She cared about life.”
On Tuesday, Nikki and her son, Henley Dunbar, were pulled by Kingsport firefighters from a blaze at their home, 1009 Rosetree Lane. Shortly thereafter, officials announced the child had not survived.
Nikki Dunbar, 27, had been at Holston Valley Medical Center. She left behind a husband, whom she married in April, and two additional children; Hannah, 6, and Hayden, 5.
“They really don’t understand yet,” said Dollar of her two grandchildren. “We’ve told them, we went to a counselor to help explain to them what’s going on. How do a 5- and 6-year-old learn their brother and momma aren’t coming back?”
Ramey said one of his sister’s children is currently staying with him. Another is with their father’s family. Over this tragic week, the family has endured. Ramey said they have been taken aback by the public’s response.
“It’s overwhelming how the community has been so gracious with support,” said Ramey. “We really thank them for all their support and prayers.”
Nikki’s surviving children still need more help. They lost all their possessions in the fire and their mother has no insurance.
Donations can be made at any Bank of America location. The account is in the name of Nikki’s mother, Teresa M. Dollar.
“I just want everyone to know what a good person she was,” said Dollar. “Essentially, she died trying to save her child. She tried.”
The Kingsport Fire Department is still investigating what ignited the blaze. Shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday, a passer-by spotted the fire and called 911.
Upon KFD’s arrival, flames were through approximately 30 percent of the structure. One group of firefighters entered through a rear entrance, another through the front. The Dunbars were found together inside.
A melted smoke alarm was found in the home, with officials unable to determine if it may have malfunctioned. In the wake of the tragedy and heightened public awareness to the importance of functioning smoke alarms, the KFD ran out of its supply that was available for free to the public.
KFD Public Education Officer Barry Brickey urged residents to buy at least two smoke alarms for minimal protection of themselves and their homes. He said that having even one working alarm increases the chances of surviving a fire by 50 percent.