PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – Authorities suspect an electrical problem may have sparked the fire at an Erie home day care center that killed five children. An electrical engineer was expected to assist in the investigation on Monday, Erie News Now reports.
Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone said there were electrical cords under a couch in the living room with multiple cords plugged into them.
The fire, which broke out around 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, hit volunteer firefighter Luther Jones and his family especially hard.
Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty said Jones’ two daughters and a son were trapped in the blaze while he was responding to another call that ended up being a malfunctioning alarm.
“Fire and foremost, we would like to offer our deepest sympathies to all affected by the tragic fire on West 11th Street, it is simply an unbearable loss for the families and for our community,” Erie Firefighters President Len Trott said in a Facebook post.
The mother of Jones’ three children, Shevona Overton, who said she is also the mother of another child killed, told CBS affiliate WSEE-TV the names of her children are La’Myhia Jones, 8, Luther Jones Jr., 6, Ava Jones, 4, and Jaydan Augustyniak, 9 months.
She said she “lost a piece of me that can never be replaced.”
“I’m just so hurt my babies are gone,” she said. “I love them dearly. I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain.”
The fire was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski told the Erie Times-News. He said the blaze appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor.
Firefighters say there was only one smoke detector inside the home.
Valerie Lockett-Slupski, standing across the street from the fire-damaged house, told the newspaper she was the grandmother of four of the children — two boys and two girls — and that they were staying at the home because their parents were working overnight.
“So, we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened,” Lockett-Slupski said.
Erie police detectives told the newspaper that the owner was listed in stable condition after being flown to UPMC Mercy. Chief Guy Santone of the Erie Fire Department said a neighbor was also injured.
The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists the Harris Family Daycare as “a 24 hour, 7 days a week childcare service including holidays.”
(©Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)