COLUMBUS, Ohio » A fire caused by a dropped kerosene heater swept through a rural trailer home on Thursday, killing three young siblings, whose mother fell out a window trying to save them and couldn’t get back in, a sheriff said.
The heater had caught fire, and the mother was trying to carry it outside when she dropped it in the kitchen, causing fuel to spill and the fire to start spreading through the doublewide trailer just outside Brilliant, an Ohio River village 140 miles east of Columbus, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.
The mother then stepped out a window, preparing to start lifting her children outside to safety, but fell out of the window and couldn’t get back inside because of the smoke and flames, the sheriff said.
The mother ran out to a rural road and was "hollering and screaming" until someone came by in a car and could call 911, the sheriff said. The emergency call came in just after noon, he said.
"I can only imagine her mental state," Abdalla said, struggling with his emotions as he talked about the situation. "This is just such a terrible, terrible tragedy. It’s so heartbreaking."
Killed were a 4-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl who were twins and their 3-year-old sister, whose names weren’t immediately released.
Photos by WTRF-TV in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia, showed the charred, smoldering remains of the flattened trailer.
The mother lived with her boyfriend and their three children in the trailer, the sheriff said. The boyfriend was at work at the time. They were running the kerosene heater because they couldn’t afford their electric bill.
The state fire marshal’s office will investigate.
It was the fourth multiple-death home fire in Ohio since early December. Three children were killed in a Dec. 12 house fire in Hamilton, and a woman and three grandchildren were killed Dec. 26 in a fire near Washington Court House. Then on Jan. 6, a trailer fire in Fairfield County killed a 10-month-old boy, his parents and his maternal grandparents.