Authorities look at space heater in Pa. fire that killed woman, four children
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Investigators looking into a central Pennsylvania row house fire that killed four young children and a woman have zeroed in on a first-floor space heater, a dead battery in a smoke detector, and nailed-shut windows, officials said yesterday.
Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick said all five died of smoke inhalation, thermal burns, or a combination of the two in the blaze that destroyed their home Monday night.
He identified the victims as Cornelia Brooks, 49; Kelli Franklin, 4; Tysheen Terry, 4; Deandre Terry, 3; and Derionn Terry, 2. Brooks was Kelli’s grandmother and a great-aunt to the other three, said her husband, Ralph Brooks.
Ralph Brooks said Vicky, as she was known, was a cheerful person who loved the children. They were separated after 15 years of marriage but remained best friends.
“I know in my heart, when the tragedy happened, she came and got those kids and took them with her’’ to heaven, he said.
All the victims were pronounced dead at hospitals, and no autopsies were conducted, Hetrick said.
A family member owned the home, Ralph Brooks said. It had at least one smoke detector, but its battery had died, Harrisburg fire officials said. The fire occurred about a block from the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in a poor section of Harrisburg, the state capital of about 47,000 people.
Local teens tried to get into the home from the back to rescue the occupants before firefighters arrived, but the blaze was too intense, said Janie Porter, who lives at the end of the block of five row houses.
Mayor Linda Thompson said she would convene a task force to examine ways to improve compliance with the city’s smoke detector ordinance.