A fire broke out in a home without smoke detectors early Saturday, killing six members of a family, officials said. The father escaped by leaping out a second-story window and was being treated for injuries.
Autopsies were scheduled on the four children and two adults who died.
“I guarantee the family would have got out alive if they’d just had one working smoke alarm,” said Steve Henrichson, an inspector with the St. Joseph Fire Department.
The father who jumped thought his wife and children were out of the four-bedroom, two-story home, relative Anthony Lopez said.
“Lisa was ahead of him, he didn’t see her, he thought she had made it out,” Lopez said.
Bryan P. Riggs, 39, was hospitalized with minor burns and smoke inhalation.
The victims were identified as Lisa L. Riggs, 38; her mother, Patricia A. Duryee, 61; brothers Kealan V. Riggs, 8; Tristan J. Riggs, 11; and Sean Patrick Fox, 16; and a cousin, Brandon Lee Updegraff, 10, who was staying at the house for the night, said Sgt. Fritz Adams of the St. Joseph Police Department.
Slow-burning blaze started on first floor
The fire was devastating to the relatives of the blended family, said Lopez, Duryee’s nephew.
“Right now I’m trying to hold it together the best I can,” he said. “Dad (Patricia Duryee’s brother) and I have had crying sessions throughout the day. Blood didn’t matter in this family, love mattered.”
Six animals, including two large dogs, also died in the fire.
Fire Department investigators were searching for a cause for the slow-burning fire that was reported at 5:32 a.m. and was largely contained on the first floor. Henrichson said it appeared to have started in a first-floor room, near an electrical outlet where a window air conditioning unit was plugged in.
All six victims were found on the second floor, said Capt. Kevin Castle, a spokesman for the St. Joseph Police Department.
Emergency personnel said they thought the oldest boy, 17-year-old Brandon Fox, had also died in the fire, until he arrived at the charred house at about 9 a.m.
A fire department chaplain drove the boy to Heartland Regional Medical Center to be with family members.