THREE family members die in house fire

Wednesday, August 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHORT, Okla. (AP) _ Just three weeks ago, the Rev. Willie Mooney came to the aid of Sarah McKenzie's family, presiding over the funeral of McKenzie's 61-year-old son and Mooney's friend, Darvin.

On Wednesday, he will again help comfort McKenzie's family, this time delivering the eulogies at the funerals of McKenzie, 95, and her other two sons.

Sarah McKenzie and sons Ned, 54, and J.W., 65, died in a fire Saturday at her two-story home in Short, a community of 328 people in northeast Sequoyah County near the Arkansas border.

Authorities are still investigating what started the fire, but they know it began after 10 p.m. in the kitchen area.

A passerby saw the fire and tried to pull Sarah and J.W. McKenzie out a first-floor window, said Shannon Rowland, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal's office.

About 30 minutes later, Muldrow police received a call about the fire and contacted firefighters. But by the time firefighters arrived, the blaze had engulfed the house. Medical crews pronounced Sarah and J.W. McKenzie dead at the scene.

Ned McKenzie's body was found in a burned-out hallway.

Investigators don't know whether any functioning smoke alarms were in the house. The building burned down, Rowland said.

For the second time in less than a month, Mooney will take time out from his church-building efforts in Arkansas to say good-bye to friends. He's known the family all his life.

``They were poor, but they always had plenty to eat,'' he said. ``They were known to give of what they had.''

He was close to Darvin McKenzie, whose wife died about a year ago.

J.W. and Ned McKenzie lived in their mother's house to help take care of her. But Mooney described the woman as someone who, despite her age, got along well on her own.

``She was just an old rock, still in good health. She loved her family and she lived to take care of them.''

Many relatives still live in Short and their neighbors have been busy consoling them, Mooney said. With so much lost in such a brief time, neighborly kindness has been overshadowed by sorrow.

``It's been really hard on the family, let me tell you,'' Mooney said.

Memorial services for the three were set for the Belfonte School gymnasium in Short.