Mobile home fire kills seven in southwestern Missouri; investigators seeking cause


Thursday, January 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



BETHPAGE, Mo. (AP) _ Fire swept through a crowded mobile home early Thursday, killing seven people, including a mother and her three young children.

Six other people, four of them children, were able to escape the blaze, a relative said.

Bill Davenport, deputy with the McDonald County Sheriff's Department, confirmed that seven people had died. He said 13 people from the same family lived in the home, but it was not known whether they all were there at the time.

Tonya Whitten, a relative who lives in a trailer next to the victims, said her four children were among those who escaped the burning trailer, about 30 miles southeast of Joplin in the southwest part of the state.

``I was up and getting ready to go to work, and then (her daughters) came screaming through the door,'' Whitten said. ``They said 'Grandma's trailer's on fire!'''

Whitten said the victims were three women, ages 61, 58 and 31, a 60-year-old man, a 9-year-old boy and two girls, ages 5 and 3.

She said the older couple were her in-laws, but she declined to identify them.

Whitten said she was told the fire started about 5:30 a.m. after someone left something cooking on the stove when the family went to sleep.

Two investigators with the state fire marshal's office were on the scene, along with the McDonald County Coroner and firefighters from Stella and Pineville.