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Fire kills mother, 3 children; 6 people flee



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Fire officials said the cause was an extension cord used for a space heater.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- A fire started by an overheated extension cord killed a woman and her three young children early Friday in a house where six other people managed to escape, fire officials said.

The youngest child who died, Nevaeh Hanners, was 2 weeks old. Her mother Mindy Hanners, 19, also died at the home, along with Katelynn, 4, and 1-year-old Austin, said Doug Smith, a battalion chief for the Columbus fire department.

"They were all in one room upstairs on the second floor," Smith said. "This is one of our nightmares here is to come on the scene and have this many people trapped."

Investigators determined the fire was accidental, caused by the extension cord that ran downstairs from a space heater on the second floor, the fire department said.

Ten people were inside the four-bedroom home when the fire started about 5:30 a.m. and six escaped on their own, Smith said. They tried to rush back inside to try to save the victims, but firefighters stopped them.

One survivor, Paul Sadler Sr., the father of Mindy Hanners, said he smelled smoke and attempted to rescue his daughter and her children from their room, but it was too difficult.

"I tried to get into the bedroom. I couldn't get in," he said before being overcome with emotion and turning away from reporters.

Screams for help

A cousin who did not live in the house, Ashley Bibb of Columbus, said those who were inside told her they heard the mother banging on the floor screaming, "Help me! Help me!"

She described Hanners as an outstanding mother who took her children everywhere with her. Hanners had just had a portrait taken of Nevaeh the day before the fire, she said.

For a while after the fire, family members huddled in blankets in the back of a van from the Red Cross, which sent people to the home to help the survivors.

The exterior of the century-old, two-story home was still standing, but everything visible through broken windows was charred. The home's white, wooden siding was blackened where flames came through the windows.

The house is on a corner in a working-class neighborhood with brick-paved and tree-lined streets. By midmorning, firefighters had tossed charred mattresses and other belongings into large piles outside the house. A purple children's bicycle rested against the house on the porch, and various toys, including a plastic car, dog and doll's head, were scattered on the grass of the small front lawn.

Firefighters found no working smoke detector in the house, only an empty bracket for one in the kitchen, Smith said.

Two firefighters were taken to Ohio State University Medical Center to be treated for burns, Smith said. One, burned on the face, was released after treatment, and the other, with burns on the back, was being evaluated, a hospital spokesman said.




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