Seeking answers from local religious group after deadly Haitian orphanage fire


SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – Eyewitness News is speaking with the family member of a local church leader, following a deadly fire at a Haitian orgphanage connected to a local church.

As Eyewitness News was first to report on Friday, the Scranton-based Church of Bible Understanding runs two orphanages there. At  least 15 children were killed in a fire at one of the orphanages last Thursday.

Now, questions are being raised about the conditions of that home. The Associated Press reports the church lost accreditation for those homes beginning in November of 2012. Haitian inspectors cited the group for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and not having adequately trained staff.

On Monday, we went looking for answers from those leaders. We went looking for Timothy McAndrews, the person listed as the principal officer on the church’s IRS tax filing. The tax filing also lists Tarah McAndrews as the secretary for the church. A public records search led us to a home on Wood Street in Scranton’s North Side.

Related Link: Former member of controversial church speaks out

Eyewitness News Reporter, Andy Mehalshick, spoke to a woman who answered the door and identified herself as Linda McAndrews. She said she was Timothy’s wife and Tarah’s mother, adding that both of them were in Haiti.

Andy: “Hi good morning, my name is Andy Mehalshick from WBRE, I’m looking for Tarah McAndrews.”
Linda: “She doesn’t live here anymore, she lived here at one time before, I’m her mother she doesn’t live here.”

Andy: “How about Tim McAndrews?”

Linda: “no he’s my husband.”

Andy: “What do you know about the fire? What’s your name miss?”

Linda: “I’m not really authorized to give a statement or talk. It’s just an upsetting thing. I don’t really want to talk to news people right now.”

Andy: “Have they [Timothy or Tarah McAndrews] contacted you about the fire?

Linda: “Of course.”

Andy: “What are they saying about it?”

Linda: “Well it’s all in the news, children died it was a terrible tragedy.”

Eyewitness News also tried to contact Timothy McAndrews on his cell phone, but the call did not go through.

Financial records obtained by the I-Team show that the church claims more than $19 million in assets and spends some $600,000 a year funding two Haitian orphanages.

The church got its start in the early 1970’s in Allentown and moved to New York City. According to county real estate records, the church owns several properties in the Scranton area.

Media reports from Haiti indicate that it took firefighters more than an hour and a half to reach the orphanage. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and at this point in time church officials have not been accused of wrongdoing in connection with the deadly fire.

According to the Associated Press, the Church of Bible Understanding lost its accreditation for its homes in 2012 citing unsanitary and overcrowding conditions.

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