Firefighters in a small Pennsylvania community are mourning for one of their own, after his children were among five youngsters killed in a daycare blaze while he was responding to another call.
Luther Jones dropped his two daughters and son off at the daycare in Erie, Penn., on Saturday before joining his crew at the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department one town over, according to Fox News.
He was responding to another call when a fire broke out at the daycare early Sunday, just after 1 a.m. Jones’ call turned out to be a false alarm.
The neighbouring Erie Fire Department responded to the daycare call and pulled five young children and one adult from the blaze. All five children were later pronounced dead. Officials say the five victims ranged in age from eight months to 8 years old.
Jones later learned that all three of his children were among the dead.
“Organizationally and individually, we are heartbroken by the recent tragic fire in the City of Erie,” the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department wrote in a statement on its Facebook page Sunday. “We are grieving deeply as this has affected one of our members.”
Jones has been a volunteer firefighter for 15 years, according to Lawrence Park Fire Chief Joe Crotty, who described Jones as an “outstanding young man.”
The Erie Fire Department offered its condolences to all the victims’ families in a statement on Monday.
“It is simply an unbearable loss for the families and for our community,” Len Trott, president of the Erie Firefighters’ union, wrote on Facebook. “This tragedy will linger in the memory of all involved for the rest of their lives, and we can only hope that the community can someday heal.”
The Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department is accepting donations for Jones’ family.
Shevona Overton, who was previously in a relationship with Jones, says four of the five children killed in the blaze — including Jones’ three kids — were also hers.
“I’m just so hurt my babies are gone,” she told Erie News Now. “I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain.”
Overton’s children with Jones were 8, 6 and 4 years old. Her youngest was nine months old.
“I’m never going to be the same,” she said.
In a Facebook post, Overton said she doesn’t want anyone to launch a GoFundMe for her. “I just want my babies,” she wrote.
The eldest three children shared Jones’ last name.
Many people flooded the fire department’s Facebook page with their condolences. Several first responders’ groups also offered their sympathies.
Investigators told Erie News Now that the fire appeared to have been sparked by an electrical problem. They found only one smoke detector in the attic.
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