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Baby's family recalls their 'little angel,' horror of home explosion

An undated photo of Christina Palmer with her

An undated photo of Christina Palmer with her son Rah-Quan Laron Palmer. Rah-Quan died in a house explosion in Brentwood on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. He was 18 months old. Credit: Handout

The last thing Rah-Quan Palmer's family remembered seeing before the toddler disappeared in a heap of smoking rubble Tuesday was their "little angel" laughing and smiling.

Then came the deafening blast, the falling roof and the child's faint, pained cries.

Wood, brick and jagged glass had crashed down on a group of people in the Brentwood home. Among them were Rah-Quan and his mother, Christina Morgan, who frantically dug through debris looking for her child, relatives said.

The 18-month-old boy was eventually plucked from the ruins and rushed to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was pronounced dead.

Outside the emergency room, the little boy's father, grandmother, uncle and seven other relatives held each other and sobbed. Some still had blood and scratches visible on their skin from the massive explosion.

"My son was my heart," said Rah-Quan's heartbroken father, Rashamel Palmer, 28. "I'm grieving my son. It's hard. We're trying to get through this together."

Rah-Quan's grandmother Darcell Knight, who said she was in the house at the time of the blast, said her grandson was "full of smiles" before the roof caved in. She said everyone in the house had scrambled to find him after the disaster, but the hot, heavy debris was difficult to move.

"He was as peaceful as could be before" the explosion, said Knight. "He was just laughing and smiling like always. He was the best baby you could ever have. He was our world."

Before the explosion, Knight said, it had been like any other morning.

"No one knew anything was wrong, just that they were doing some maintenance work," she said. "The explosion was out of nowhere."

"After it happened, the baby's cries were real quiet, then they stopped," said Devon Martin, who identified herself as Rah-quan's aunt and said she was in the house when it crumbled.

The baby's parents had recently overcome some tough times, said an uncle, Steven Knight.

"Rah-Quan's parents were on the right path, building a family life," Knight said. "Not only did they lose their son, they lost everything they were striving for."

The family's reverend, Pastor Valentine Brown of the Soul Saving Church of Christ in West Babylon, said the 10 family members living in the home lost everything they owned.

"They have no clothes, no food and nowhere to sleep," said Brown, who urged people to contact her church to donate. "They need help."

Meanwhile, Rah-Quan's relatives said they would help each other grieve, and keep the child's memory alive.

"That child was an innocent, a little angel," Steven Knight said. "He deserved to live. Now, we have to go on with all this pain."

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