Two young children died in a fire at a South Union Township home early Tuesday.
The Fayette County coroner’s office identified the children as Ryleigh Weasenforth, 7, and Gunner Weasenforth, 5, her brother.
Officials at the scene said the fire was reported around 5:30 a.m. on South Mount Vernon Ext.
The children were sleeping in bed and trapped by the fire outside their bedroom door. It was quickly apparent to firefighters they would be unable to rescue the children, said South Union Township fire Chief Rick McCormick.
“I’ve got a couple little kids at home myself,” he said through tears. “It’s pretty hard right now. We did all we could.”
The home is divided into an upstairs and downstairs apartment. The children lived in a downstairs apartment with their parents, and were sleeping in a back bedroom. The parents and a second family living upstairs escaped uninjured.
“They were still in their bedroom. Still in bed,” McCormick said.
A firefighter was treated for a badly burned hand battling the blaze.
Officials have not yet identified the other occupants of the home. Authorities reported secondary damage to the siding of a home on Eighth Street, behind the South Mount Vernon home. Neighbors said that home was owned by the grandparents of the children. The couple’s two sons lived in the upstairs and downstairs apartments.
The children attended the Laurel Highlands School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Jesse Wallace.
“I don’t know how to feel from this. It’s a tragic loss. I can’t understand as a parent or a grandparent how to deal with this,” he said. “We are saddened, and we are here to help the family any way we can.”
A crisis intervention team, including additional counselors and psychologists were at the school Tuesday, and will remain until at least Wednesday. A letter will be sent to parents and guardians, Wallace said.
A state police fire marshal was called to investigate, and a state police crime unit was on the scene, along with firefighters and ambulance services.
Police were called at about 6 a.m. when they were notified the children were likely killed. There was nothing immediately suspicious about the fire, said state police Trooper Robert Broadwater, noting the investigation is ongoing. The cause of the fire will likely not be determined until a later date.
“It’s hard. It’s just difficult to know that two young lives are lost, and it’s a shame. It’s a small community here. It’s hard to even talk to you guys,” Broadwater said.
Autopsies are being performed on the children, according to the coroner’s office. They were pronounced dead at the scene by deputy coroners Tuesday morning. Additional tests, including toxicology and carbon monoxide tests, will be used to determine the cause of death. Those results will not be immediately available.
Officials cleared the scene at about 10 a.m.
An American Red Cross provided four adults and two children also living in the home with immediate assistance and lodging, according to Dan Tobin, the regional office’s communications director.
A fundraiser was set up through GoFundMe for the family, which raised nearly $4,000 of its $10,000 goal within two hours. Shienna Ross, who organized the fundraiser, described the children as “two young babies awaiting the next day to go to school and laugh and play with their friends, anticipating running home and playing with their toys Santa brought them, or just to see the smiling face of their mother fighting her own battle with cancer.”
Donations can be made through https://www.gofundme.com/f/young-innocent-lives-lost-in-early-morning-fire. The fundraiser was verified by a GoFundMe official.