Tue | Dec 5, 2023

‘Oh no, this can’t be true!’

Niece mourning 3-y-o’s passing breaks down with news of father’s death

Published:Thursday | September 28, 2023 | 12:09 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
Father Sherman Williams with baby Cleon.
Father Sherman Williams with baby Cleon.
Young Cleon in school.
Young Cleon in school.

IN A heart-wrenching incident that left a tight-knit community in mourning, a father and his three-year-old son lost their lives because of a fire that partially destroyed their family home in Portmore Gardens, St Catherine.

The grief-stricken family, already grappling with the loss of young Cleon Williams, who died instantly in the fire, was further devastated when they received news yesterday morning that his 40-year-old father Sherman Williams, who was admitted to hospital with severe burns, succumbed to his injuries.

The tragic news unfolded just as member of parliament (MP) for St Catherine South East, Robert Miller, a close friend of the family, was visiting to offer his condolences.

Miller made a call to the Spanish Town Hospital to check up on the progress of the senior Williams when he learnt of his death.

Breaking the news of his passing to family members who were not privy to his call was a challenge for the MP.

The emotional toll was evident as Williams’ niece Monique Brown, who was praying for her uncle to pull through, expressed shock and disbelief upon hearing of his death.

“Oh no, this can’t be true!” she said as she broke down and had to be supported by Miller and Tsahai Rose, the councillor/caretaker for the division, who is also a close friend of the family.

Rose was making her second visit to the family home, having spent the night with them after she learned of the tragedy.

Brown revealed that she shared a special bond with young Cleon, often caring for him when his father was at work, and now faces the challenge of explaining this tragedy to her own daughter.


Miller, who was visibly distraught, expressed sorrow.

“For me personally, it is a very sad feeling. Sherman I know loved his son, he was father and mother to that boy, raising him from he was a baby when his mother disappeared,” noted Miller.

He also described him as a very hard worker who would do anything for his son.

“I know the entire family both here and overseas are devastated by this tragedy,” Miller added.

Rose was grief-stricken.

“This is a very sad moment for me. I got the call at 12:30 a.m. and I didn’t hesitate. And when I got here and learned that Cleon had perished in the fire, I was speechless,” Rose said, adding that her feeling of sadness was compounded by the news of Sherman’s passing.

The impact of the incident extends beyond the friends and family circle. Cleon Williams had recently begun attending the Faith Assembly of God Basic School, where Principal Rosemarie Gooden remembered him as “an outspoken and friendly” child.


“When I got the news this morning, I was very heartbroken. He will be missed by all the staff,” she told The Gleaner.

Gooden said it will be a challenge to break the news to the deceased boy’s peers. She said plans will have to be put in place to provide grief counselling.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Dennis Lyons, divisional commander for the St Catherine division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, said the call came in at 11:40 p.m. and one unit from Waterford responded along with the ambulance team.

He said, when the brigade arrived on the scene, fire was observed coming from a four-apartment dwelling house and they quickly put out the fire.

According to Lyons, during the cooling-down exercise, the body of a young boy was found at the door, along with a 40-year-old gentleman who had sustained burns. He was taken to the Spanish Town Hospital.

Lyons said a team from the investigative unit will be processing the scene to determine the origin of the fire.