4-year-old boy dies in Bartonville house fire

By Holly Eitenmiller for Chronicle Media

When crews arrived July 17, the small house at 312 Buena Vista. St. in Bartonville was engulfed in flames and firefighters were unable to enter the home. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/for Chronicle Media)

A house fire that broke out the morning of July 17 took the life of a young Peoria County boy.

Firefighters were summoned to 312 Buena Vista St, Bartonville, by a passerby at 11:27 a.m. Other calls to emergency dispatchers followed, alerting that a 4-year-old boy was inside the burning home.

Fire agencies from Limestone Township, West Peoria and Creve Coeur were summoned to the home. All are about 10 minutes away from Buena Vista Street. Peoria Fire Station 4, closest to the home, was not summoned based on fire protocols.

Upon arrival, crews found the small home engulfed in flames, and Bartonville Assistant Chief Drew Zachman said firefighters were unable to enter and, instead, were forced to extinguish the fire from outside the residence.

“The family’s here on scene, they’re reasonably upset,” Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said July 17. “I don’t know the extent of their injuries … I do know that the dad has some burns, but the extent of the injuries are not known at this time.”

Harwood arrived at the scene at 1:25 p.m. Bankes was confirmed dead a little more than an hour later when Harwood was able to safely enter the home. By late July 18, the cause of death was determined as smoke inhalation.

“The burns he sustained were most likely caused post-mortem,” Harwood said in a press release. “The case remains under investigation by the Bartonville Police Department and the Illinois State Fire Marshall.

The boy’s father, John Bankes II, sustained first- and second-degree burns attempting to save his son. On July 18, Bankes scheduled a memorial motorcycle ride for July 24, his son’s birthday. A GoFundMe account, also set up that day, has raised almost $6,000 of the $10,000 goal.