Posted: Jan 9, 2013 7:54 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2013 7:55 PM
CONYERS, Ga. (AP) Four children, including an infant, died in a late-night house fire outside Atlanta even as rescuers tried to save them and a fifth child was thrown to safety by his mother, authorities said Wednesday.
The 6-year-old who survived was tossed from a second-floor window as the fire burned Tuesday in a duplex in Conyers, east of Atlanta.
"It saved his life," said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Georgia's fire commissioner. The thrown child injured his shoulder in the fall.
In all, seven people were in the home: a grandmother, the mother and the five children, Allen said. Allen said the ages of the children who died were 8 months, 3, 5, and 7. Later Wednesday, Rockdale County spokeswoman Tonya Parker said the ages were 7 months, 3, 7, and 9.
The mother was in serious condition at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with second- and third-degree burns on her back and arms, Allen said.
Neighbor Lamonta Stroud, 18, said he ran to the duplex, smashing windows and pleading with the children to come to a bathroom and escape.
"I just started hitting windows, breaking windows, breaking windows, screaming, 'Come to the bathroom, come to the bathroom, I can get you all out. Come to the bathroom, I can get you all out,'" Stroud recalled. "All I heard was stuff cracking and falling and just fire so much was going on."
He said a little girl was at a window but would not jump, possibly because she was scared.
"There really wasn't that much I could do," Stroud recalled in a soft voice. "I tried."
The surviving child is being treated at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, and his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, the Rockdale County Fire and Rescue Department said in a statement.
The children were in one unit of a two-story duplex in the town about 25 miles east of Atlanta. The other unit of the duplex was vacant, Allen said.
Officers arrived on the scene quickly after the fire was reported about 11 p.m. and tried unsuccessfully to put it out with hand-held fire extinguishers, Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson told WXIA-TV.
By the time firefighters arrive, the home was fully engulfed by flames, said Dan Morgan, chief of Rockdale County Fire and Rescue.
"They had flames coming out at least two windows, one on the back side, and they entered the home, went upstairs and extinguished the fire while another crew retrieved the children and brought them out to try to revive them," Morgan was quoted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying.
There was no indication as to what caused the blaze, Allen said before daybreak Wednesday. Officials said the fire appeared to have started in a bathroom and hallway on the second floor of the home.
The statement from Rockdale County said officials weren't yet certain whether the home had working smoke detectors.
In response to the incident, Rockdale County fire officials will canvass the neighborhood next week for community outreach focused on fire safety, Parker said.
In the statement, Rockdale County CEO and Chairman Richard Oden said, "We will wrap our arms around this family to ensure comfort during this time of tremendous loss." The Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home in Conyers has offered to handle funeral arrangements for the family at no cost, Parker said.
Early Wednesday morning in Kentucky, one adult and four children were killed in a fire in a rural area in the eastern part of the state. Pike County Coroner Russell Roberts said he could not give the ages of those killed.
In Conyers, Stroud said he knew the family well, and one of the girls who died was his sister's best friend.
"All the kids out here are like a family," he said. "And it hurts us all when we see something like this happen. ... It's like my little brothers and sisters are gone now."
Associated Press writers Jeff Martin and Phillip Lucas in Atlanta contributed to this report.