House fires kill 10 kids, 4 others

The causes of the deadly blazes - in rural Kentucky and Tennessee - are under investigation.

Published February 7, 2007

Separate house fires in Kentucky and Tennessee killed 14 people on Tuesday, and 10 of the victims were children.

In Bardstown, Ky., a fast-moving blaze killed 10 people early Tuesday - six of them children - in Kentucky's deadliest house fire in at least 30 years. Two people were injured.

Neighbors said the survivors had to be prevented from running back into the flames in an attempt to rescue the screaming children.

The other deadly fire happened early Tuesday outside Maryville, Tenn.

The parents escaped from their burning home with a 3-year-old, but four other children, ages 7 to 14, died in the blaze, said Blount County, Tenn., Sheriff James Berrong.

"It was just an accident and a tragedy," Berrong said. He said the victims were sleeping in upstairs bedrooms and the survivors were on the first floor.

The causes of both fires were under investigation.

The Kentucky blaze "may have been an explosion in the center of the house," Fire Department spokesman Tom Isaac said. "The fire flashed very quickly."

It was Kentucky's deadliest fire in any type of building since the Beverly Hills Supper Club blaze in northern Kentucky in 1977 killed 165 people, said Rob Goodwin, senior deputy state fire marshal.

Bardstown fire Chief Anthony Mattingly said the flames spread so rapidly that firefighters couldn't get inside.

Authorities did not identify the victims, but Janet Tonge said her sister, Sherry Maddox, was among the dead, along with Maddox's boyfriend, Johnny Litsey, two of Maddox's daughters and six of her grandchildren, including twin girls Heaven and Earth Maddox.

"How do you prepare for a funeral this large? How do you do it?" Tonge asked. "We're not capable of thinking right now. We're like that house, burned out."

Neighbors said they heard screams from the house.

Lana Meier said a woman who fled the fire banged on her front door. "She was just hysterical. She said, 'I can't get in the house. It's on fire and my baby's inside,' " Meier said.

Neighbor Bennie Stone, 61, said he went to the rear of the house and saw a woman trying to enter it, but he said he pulled her away from the house.

Lizzie Maddox had been at the house earlier in the night but returned at the time of the fire and tried to help with the rescue. She was treated at Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown for minor injuries and released.

Stone said he broke windows to try to get to the children inside, but that he was overcome by smoke and flames.

Most of the victims were dead by the time firefighters reached them, Nelson County Coroner Field Houghlin said.

Neighbor Dwight Mason, 48, said the other survivor who tried to return to the home to help the others was Darrell Maddox, who was listed in serious condition at University of Louisville Hospital.

Information from the Associated Press, the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Maryville (Tenn.) Daily Times was used in this report.