Three of the five children who died in a fire at a Pennsylvania daycare centre early on Sunday were the offspring of a local volunteer firefighter who happened to be called to a blaze just a few blocks away.
Luther Jones did not know his kids were at the house in the city of Erie when he responded to a call with the Lawrence Park Fire Department.
“Unthinkable,” Chief Joe Crotty of the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department told NBC. “It’s really beyond comprehension.”
The residential house in Erie had been turned into a daycare centre where children could stay overnight while their parents worked.
The age of the young victims ranged from eight months to seven years, according to Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone.
Neighbour Valerie Lockett-Slupski told the Erie Times-News that she was the grandmother of four of the kids who had died.
They had been at the daycare centre because their parents were working overnight.
“So we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened,” she told the newspaper.
The homeowner’s child was also killed in the fire, and the mother was among the injured.
“The lady that lived there ran through the fire to get outside,” Santone told the Times-News. “She had burned her lungs and probably didn’t realise that. And she drove herself to the hospital, and on the way to the hospital, she crashed her car.”
Nine people were injured, treated or rescued, according to the Times-News.
An investigation is ongoing, but Santone said there was only one smoke detector in the home.
“If there were the proper amount of smoke detectors in this structure, then most, if not all, would have survived,” Santone said, according to CNN.
Flames could be seen coming out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, according to the Times-News.
The Lawrence Park Fire Department is setting up a bank account to raise money for funeral costs for Jones’s family, the news website reported.