Firefighter Was on a False Alarm as His Children Died

Mother says she 'lost a piece of me'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 12, 2019 4:13 PM CDT
Firefighter Was Out on a Call When Blaze Killed His Children
Paul Laughlin, 57, places stuffed animals on Sunday outside a home in Erie, Pa., where multiple people died in an early-morning fire.   (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP)

Three of five kids killed in a fire at a home child care center in Pennsylvania were the children of a volunteer firefighter who was responding to another call, an official said Monday. Luther Jones' two daughters and a son were trapped in a blaze in the lakeside city of Erie while he was responding to a call for what turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm, said Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty. The children haven't been officially identified, but the Erie Fire Department says they range in age from 8 months to 7 years, the AP reports. The owner was hospitalized after the fire Sunday. Erie fire officials say the children were staying overnight at a house that had been turned into a day care center. Its address matches that of a certified day care center, per the Washington Post.

The mother of Jones' three children, Shevona Overton, who said she is also the mother of another child killed, told WICU that she had "lost a piece of me that can never be replaced" in the fire, which was reported about 1:15am Sunday. "I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain," she said. The fire was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski said. The fire broke out on the first floor of the house, and investigators said the only smoke detector was in the attic. Valerie Lockett-Slupski, who said 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.

(Read more house fire stories.)

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