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Soldier, daughters die in Cumberland house fire

Posted March 6, 2012
Updated March 7, 2012

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— A Special Forces soldier died trying to rescue his young daughters from their burning, century-old home just outside Hope Mills early Tuesday.

Edward Duane Cantrell, 36, and Louise Cantrell, 37, jumped from the second floor of the house at 4151 Pecan Drive to escape the fire, said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

He then wrapped himself in blanket and rushed back into the burning home to try rescue 6-year-old Isabella and 4-year-old Natalia.

Meanwhile, Louise Cantrell ran to a nearby nursing home and called for help around 1:50 a.m. She then waited outside for her husband to come out with their children.

Firefighters, though, found Edward Cantrell and the two girls dead inside the home. Tanna said they apparently died of smoke inhalation.

"It's terrible. Special Forces, they can go out and save America, but they can't save the children. It's heartbreaking," family acquaintance Cindy Jacobs said.

Louise Cantrell was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The family dog, a Rottweiler named Sasha, also survived. A neighbor is caring for the dog.

Edward Cantrell, a recipient of four Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart, served with the 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg. He recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.

Isabella was a kindergartner at Ed Baldwin Elementary School.

"You would walk past her in the hallway, and she'd be the one who'd come up to you and grab your leg, give you that hug, very loving," Ed Baldwin Elementary principal Todd Yardis said. "She was very loved. You could see that in her parents, that she was used to people caring about her." 

Jacobs said she often saw the mom and dad playing with their daughters in the yard.

The family's home, built in the 1920s with some newer additions, burned easily, Tanna said.

"You're dealing with tinder-box conditions considering that you're trying to put out a fire in a house of this age," she said. Father, daughters die in Hope Mills house fire House fire kills father, two girls

The roof of the home collapsed, and flames charred the outside of the front door and windows on both floors. Firefighters were still putting out hot spots four hours after the blaze started.

Tanna said the fire does not appear to be suspicious. Homicide and arson investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire, which is standard procedure.

The home had fire detectors, she said, and firefighters heard them beeping when they arrived.

99 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 9, 3:48 p.m.

    @voiceofreason, I'm looking for a safe way to rush into a burning building and that causes you a problem? Google turned up nothing helpful and with all the police folks here on GOLO it's logical to think that maybe there are some firedept folks. So, does anyone know if a wet cloth would actually help?

  • voiceofreason32 Mar 7, 2:37 p.m.

    And, does anyone know how to rush into a burning house and not get overcome by smoke? wet cloth over your mouth? Is there a quick & easy way to be safe while you rescue someone?

    hereandnow99

    Thank you so much for continuing to show the lack of compassion we see everyday on GOLO...i am sure if I was in the same situation and my daughters were in that house, I would find a working faucet and a rag, and wet it to be safe while RUNNING into a home on fire.....don't cheapen his heroism by your ridiculous comments

  • SouthernGirlJD Mar 7, 2:24 p.m.

    There will be a benefit fundraiser for Louise Cantrell on Saturday March 24, 2012 at Hellas in Hope Mills NC beginning at 12:00 noon. They will be selling BBQ plates as well as having a raffle to help Mrs. Cantrell. If anyone would like to donate anything for the raffle please let Jimmy Phillips know. Also if anyone has any women's clothes that are slightly used or new Mrs. Cantrell needs size 9/10. Everything she had was lost in the fire. I have Jimmy Phillips number if anyone needs it for donation for the auction or clothing for Mrs. Cantrell.

  • jwhitley16 Mar 7, 12:42 p.m.

    Duane Cantrell's son Kenny lost his father and two sisters please keep the entire Cantrell family lifted up in prayer.

  • mypookie1 Mar 7, 11:59 a.m.

    What a sad thing that poor mother lost so much,hope the mother gets alright,it so heartbreaking.Prayers for all.

    mypookie1

  • mileage be playing dat Mar 7, 11:32 a.m.

    "The dog survived. Is that a miracle?"

    No the dog was lucky.

  • SunnyNc35 Mar 7, 11:11 a.m.

    ""It's terrible. Special Forces, they can go out and save America, but they can't save the children. It's heartbreaking," family acquaintance Cindy Jacobs said."

    What a horrible thing to say - the man lost his life trying to save what matters the MOST, he paid the ultimate price in the process. RIP soldier, keep an eye on those babies. May God grant the serenity to all family members. RIP little ones. =o/

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 7, 10:13 a.m.

    The dog survived. Is that a miracle?

    And, does anyone know how to rush into a burning house and not get overcome by smoke? wet cloth over your mouth? Is there a quick & easy way to be safe while you rescue someone?

  • dsalter Mar 7, 9:51 a.m.

    This is a very tragic situation and my thoughts and prayers are with the survivors.

  • common_sense_plz Mar 7, 8:53 a.m.

    I am so saddened by this story. What a DAD and HUSBAND he must have been. My prayers go out to this wife and mother who lost so much and to their family members. I have just read that this hero also has a son, I sure hopes this young teen knows what a great dad he had. Prayers to this entire family.

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