‘He was the joy of my life:’ Louisiana boy dies in house fire
A memorial has been set up on the front lawn at 405 S. Main in Louisiana where a three-year-old boy died in a fire Oct. 31.
A house fire early Thursday morning claimed the life of a 3-year-old Louisiana boy and has left a community grieving in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The boy, Riley Jeffrey Rieser, was pronounced dead at Pike County Memorial Hospital. The fire, reported at 12:58 a.m., destroyed the home at 405 S. Main St.
Flames were shooting out of the home when firefighters arrived on the scene within five minutes of receiving the 911 call.
Riley Rieser was asleep in a bedroom in the home while the boy’s mother, Catherine Miller, and stepfather, Ryan Miller, had fallen asleep watching television in a room in the rear of the home. The fire was reported after Catherine Miller was awakened by smoke. Attempts to reach Riley were unsuccessful as fire and smoke blocked the path to the boy’s room as the blaze engulfed the rear of the home.
The parents were able to reach a rear door and exit the home. Once outside, Ryan Miller kicked in the front door and attempted to make entry to rescue his stepson, officials reported. A Louisiana police officer had to restrain Miller and eventually used a taser gun to subdue him.
Riley Rieser was eventually located near the doorway to the bedroom by the front living room and transported by ambulance to the hospital.
Fire officials indicated the fire was not suspicious in nature and that the blaze likely originated in an electrical outlet in a rear room of the home where the parents were sleeping.
City Administrator Bob Jenne said the state fire marshal’s office will release the official cause when it completes its final report in two to three weeks.
Firefighters from Louisiana and Buffalo Township, as well as Illinois fire departments from Pleasant Hill and Spring Creek responded to the blaze. Crews were on the scene for around eight hours. The structure, located across the street from MFA, was a two-family residence though officials said the upstairs apartment was unoccupied.
Louisiana Fire Chief Mike Lesley said a grief counselor will be brought in to talk with firefighters.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “Everybody feels that. Some take it harder than others.
“It’s sad. It hurts everybody, especially in a small community.”
In a phone interview the day following the fatal fire, Ryan Miller said he was shot with a taser gun multiple times, handcuffed and was placed in a holding cell at the Louisiana Police Department during the time his son was transported to the hospital.
“I was hysterical, yes, because I wanted to save my son,” Miller said.
He also said the couple was never offered any medical attention at the scene. Both were treated later that day for injuries sustained in the fire at a Springfield, Ill. hospital.
Ryan Miller stated he was told his stepson was breathing at the time he was rescued from the home.
“He was my best friend,” Ryan Miller said through tears. “He was everybody’s best friend. If you would have met him, you would have loved him. He was the joy of my life.”
Jenne confirmed that a stun gun was used on Ryan Miller after attempts were made to restrain him from entering the home. Jenne reported that a firefighter in full gear attempted to make entry to reach the boy, but was forced back by the extreme heat.
When asked if the police officer overreacted by using a stun gun on Ryan Miller, Jenne responded, “To me, it’s a judgment call,” Jenne said. “Not having an opportunity to review the officer’s report, I would be remiss in saying anything.”
Jenne added that the city’s insurance carrier is expected to send an investigator to review details of the incident due to the possibility of future litigation.
About 100 people attending a candlelight vigil held Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Louisiana riverfront hosted by Rieser’s day-care provider, Sheila Sapp. She described Rieser as “a beautiful child who had a big, old smile.
“I took care of Riley and he was an awesome kid.
“We wanted to do this for him and have some closure. We’ll never know what he could have been.”
A savings account has been opened for the family at Bank of Louisiana. A donation can be made at either branch in Louisiana. Donations can also be mailed to the Miller Law Firm, located at 125 S. Main in Louisiana.
A funeral service for Riley Rieser was held Monday, Nov. 4, in Centralia, Ill. Burial was in Little Grove Cemetery near Walnut Hill.