Local News

Family Grieves for 2 Children Killed in Fire

Posted October 20, 1997

— A Vance County family is trying desperately to understand the loss of two young girls in an overnight fire. The children, 13 and 15-years-old, were sleeping when the fire began. Eight others inside the house escaped, but at least one of them is seriously injured.

There is not much left of the house that was once home to a family of ten. Embers from a woodstove apparently settled on a couch and sparked a fire. Within minutes the fire engulfed the house. Townsville Fire Captain Darel Small says there was confusion at the scene when firefighters arrived.

The chaos caused by the deadly fire turned into a living nightmare for the family with the deaths of 15-year-old Oliver Darden and her cousin 13-year-old Susie Ann Alston. Survivor Marketa Alston explains how panic and confusion caused her sister and cousin to do the unthinkable.

A numb and grief-stricken family says the girls were afraid to walk through the inferno without their shoes on. Firefighters who recovered the bodies say the deaths could have been prevented.

Townsville is a tiny community where most people know each other. The consequences of this tragedy will be hard to overcome. Desi Small lives nearby. She says it's going to take a lot of getting used to.

A fire can spread through a house in less than five minutes and give those inside less than two minutes to get out. A smoke detector can double the chance of survival. There are more than 2.6 million house fires in the United States every year, and more than 35,000 people are hurt or killed because of them. Many of those are children. Of those who lost their lives, more than 1,200 are 14 or younger.

Photographer:Rick Armstrong


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