STATESVILLE, N.C. -- La-reik Ramseur s grandfather says the 9-year-old sports fan loved to dance, loved to draw, and loved the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His mother says he s probably teaching angels how to dance in Heaven right now.

The fourth grader died early Sunday morning after his apartment caught fire while his mother was at work. His mother s boyfriend had stepped out to go to a cousin s house, and left La-reik home alone with his 12-year-old sister, Rae Neisha.

The two were trapped on the second floor when the apartment caught fire just after 1 a.m.

I heard my brother yell, 'Momma,' recalled Rae Neisha Sunday morning. And I said, Come on she's not here... then the lights went out and I couldn't get to him.

Rae Neisha said she thought La-reik was right behind her at the second-story window when she called for help. A neighbor and a passerby shouted for her to jump, and she did. But her brother didn t follow.

Bob Cannon and Taylor Greene knocked down the front and back doors to the Ramseur s apartment to look for La-reik, but couldn t find him.

I got through the front door but I couldn't get up the steps, said Greene. There was too much smoke.

I kicked in the back door and I tried to go in, echoed Cannon, and I couldn't even go in because the smoke in my face.

Statesville police ran in to find the youngster and couldn t. As they backed out, firefighters arrived and began to search while putting out the fire. They found La-reik in the living room, and rushed him out. He was pronounced dead at Iredell Memorial Hospital.

Shanae Ramseur, La-reik s mother, got the frightening call at work.

I got a call from someone in the neighborhood that the house was on fire and they're trying to revive your son in the front yard, she said. She ran home, but La-reik was already gone.

Investigators haven t determined the cause of the fire, but Rae Neisha remembers seeing a lit candle on a table downstairs before she went up to bed. Her mother s boyfriend was still there with it.

Sunday night, poinsettias and stuffed animals sat in the driveway of the Ramseur s apartment a reminder of a young life lost just before Christmas.

It's been pretty devastating for all, said La-reik s grandfather, Ray Ramseur. He was my right hand man, my road partner.
He was my sidekick and I'm going to miss that.

Friends and relatives paid their respects at Ray Ramseur s house Sunday night, coming and going in a light but steady drizzle.

Shanae Ramseur said she s cried so much, she doesn t think she can cry anymore. But with prayer, she s at peace about her son.

He's watching me, she said. He's probably teaching all the angels how to dance. I'm just going to miss him so much.

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