‘Young lives lost’: Fayette County neighbors grieve for 2 children who died in house fire
Families in a South Union neighborhood awoke Tuesday to sirens and flashing lights as fire trucks and ambulances responded to a house fire that killed a young brother and sister.
RyLeigh, 7, and Gunner Weasenforth, 5, were pronounced dead at the South Mt. Vernon Avenue home, Fayette County Coroner Phillip Reilly confirmed.
“I think it’s just very shocking. We woke up to screaming before the fire company came, and it’s just something you don’t get rid of,” neighbor Kathy Vernon said, tears rolling down her face. “They have it a lot worse, but it’s just such a sad situation. Two beautiful little kids. Always happy.”
Sherry Parker, who lives down the street, said she could hear family members screaming to get the kids out of the house. When she walked outside about 5:30 a.m., she said the house was engulfed in flames.
Tuesday afternoon, family members were seen walking around outside the duplex and consoling each other in what neighbors confirmed to be the grandmother’s house next door. Family members declined to speak with reporters.
Flames were shooting out of the front and back of the two-story home when officials responded to the call at 5:15 a.m., according to Rickey McCormick, South Union’s fire chief. The children were in the back of the home and, despite rescue efforts, firefighters could not get to them in time, McCormick said.
They were pronounced dead at 7:48 a.m.
The cause of fire has not yet been released.
According to several neighbors, the duplex housed the children and their parents, with a brother living next door.
Windows on the first floor were broken, edges darkened by black soot. Caution tape lined the front of the house, with “danger” and “no trespassing” signs posted on the door. A swing and grill sat on the porch, seemingly untouched by the fire.
A red and blue tricycle rested on its side in the front yard. In the back, broken first- and second-story windows looked out on a trampoline and swing set. The grandmother’s house, next door to the duplex, had siding and shutters melted off from the fire.
Vernon, who lives up the street from the duplex, said the children would come over to feed her dog, RyLeigh always hoping for a chance to play with Vernon’s granddaughter.
“They always would come up here riding their favorite bikes,” she said. “They had little scooters and they would come up here. … They were here just a couple of weeks before Christmas. (RyLeigh) was selling candy for her dance studio. And even though I buy off of my granddaughter, I buy off of them, too.”
Vernon, a local teacher, said Gunner attended a Head Start school-readiness program for young children.
“He used to see me at my school a couple days a week, and he would always say ‘I know you!’ ” she said. “I would say, ‘I know you Gunner!’ Really good kids.”
Throughout the community, several neighbors were already planning ways to help the family. Vernon said she and her husband had been down to visit, offering condolences.
A GoFundMe page raised more than $7,000 within hours.
The page, started by Shienna Ross, reads: “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. They were her angels on Earth and now in heaven.”
Ross did not immediately respond to an email.
Neighbor Trisha Webster said she didn’t know the family well but often saw the children playing. She has a 3-year-old son, making the tragedy especially sad for her family.
”They were kids. You just hope that they didn’t suffer,” Webster said. “This is going to be hard, I think, for everybody. It’s scary because it could happen to anyone. It could happen to us.”
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MeganTomasic.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, email@example.com or via Twitter .