GREENVILLE, Ky. — Eight children and their mother were killed in an early morning house fire in western Kentucky on Thursday, with only the injured father and an 11-year-old girl escaping, Kentucky State Police said.
Trooper Stu Recke said eight of the people were found in a master bedroom while the ninth person was found between 10 and 15 feet away. Recke said the fire started accidentally with combustible material against an electric heater in a bedroom.
Recke identified those killed as 35-year-old LaRae “Nikki” Watson, 15-year-old Madison Watson, 14-year-old Kaitlyn Watson, 13-year-old Morgan Watson, 9-year-old Emily Watson, 8-year-old Samuel Watson, 6-year-old Raegan Watson and 4-year-old twin brothers Mark and Nathaniel Watson.
Recke said the fact that all the victims were near each other could be an indication that they were trying to escape through a window, but investigators aren’t sure.
Autopsies on the remains were started Thursday afternoon.
Recke said the father, 36-year-old Chad Watson, and 11-year-old Kylie Watson, were at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Hospital spokesman Doug Campbell said both were in critical, but stable condition Thursday afternoon.
The fire broke out in the single-family house just west of Greenville, which is about 130 miles southwest of Louisville in the state’s western coal fields. Greenville had a population of just more than 4,000 people in 2010, census figures show.
Recke said Chad Watson told first responders his wife and other children were still inside, but the rescuers couldn’t get into the house.
A family member, Ricky Keith, who lives about a mile up a hill from the home, said the couple struggled financially with Chad Watson working construction and handling a paper route while Nikki Watson stayed home with the children.
“I don’t know how they made it as long as they had. They’ve struggled as long as I’ve known them, but they loved one another, I know that and they loved them kids,” Keith said.
Recke described the region as “a rural area where everybody knows everybody.” The house is in a small neighborhood of single-family dwellings, trailers and farmland.
The side and roof of the small, white-wood frame house with three bedrooms and an enclosed porch collapsed around the chimney. In front of the house, a white van stood on a concrete parking pad. At least five kids’ bikes and a child’s riding toy were strewn about the yard near a swing set.
Keith said the home was “wore out” and the children played constantly in the yard.
“They kept them in the yard and didn’t let them out of their sight,” Keith said.
Several first responders lived near the home and reported that the house was fully engulfed when they arrived, within minutes of getting the call, Recke said.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.