Local News

Family Grieves for 2 Children Killed in Fire

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What was once the home of 10 people is now a burned out shell.
TOWNSVILLE — A Vance County family is trying desperatelyto understand the loss of two young girls in an overnight fire. Thechildren, 13 and 15-years-old, were sleeping when the fire began. Eightothers inside the house escaped, but at least one of them isseriously injured.

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

The chaos caused by the deadly fire turned into a living nightmare forthe family with the deaths of 15-year-old Oliver Darden and her cousin13-year-old Susie Ann Alston. Survivor Marketa Alston explains how panicand confusion caused her sister and cousin to do the unthinkable.

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

Townsville is a tiny community where most people know each other. Theconsequences of this tragedy will be hard to overcome. Desi Small livesnearby. 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 andgive those inside less than two minutes to get out. A smoke detectorcan double the chance of survival. There are more than 2.6 millionhouse fires in the United States every year, and more than 35,000 peopleare hurt or killed because of them. Many of those are children. Of thosewho lost their lives, more than 1,200 are 14 or younger.

Photographer:Rick Armstrong

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