By Jeff Noble
Seven persons — a man, a woman and five children — perished Saturday morning in a house fire on Sam Parker Road in the Gray community in Knox County.
As of Saturday afternoon, the names of those who died were not identified and have not been confirmed. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene by Knox County Coroner Mike Blevins.
"All seven are not part of one family. There were other non-family members inside the home. All were located inside the residence," said State Police Sgt. Jimmy Young at the scene Saturday afternoon as fire crews were finishing up their work, after extinguishing the flames.
Young confirmed Saturday evening five of the seven victims lived in the house that caught fire. They included the man, his girlfriend and her three children. The other two who died were children who were friends of the family.
Knox County Coroner Mike Blevins said in a phone interview Saturday the autopsies on the seven who died would "more than likely be done Monday evening or Tuesday in Frankfort," at the State Medical Examiner's Office. Blevins added the preliminary cause and manner of their deaths has not yet been determined.
Along with fire departments and law enforcement personnel, the Kentucky State Police arson investigator and the State Fire Marshall's Office was sent to the fire, which destroyed the wood and brick house on the corner of Sam Parker Road and Shady Brook Lane.
Young said preliminary results from the arson investigator and State Fire Marshall's Office indicated no foul play, and the cause of the fire was undetermined at the time.
The investigation of the fire continues.
Kentucky State Police in Harlan said the blaze happened at 9:57 a.m., when they received a call from Knox County 911 about a structure fire in Gray, located between Corbin and Barbourville. The caller also advised that "there were several subjects inside the residence deceased."
When first responders arrived at the scene, the house was fully engulfed in flames.
From the hilltop of Sam Parker Road, the midday scene was a somber one.
A fire truck blocked access to the area affected by the blaze from the general public, with first responders and law enforcement officers the only ones allowed to enter. Numerous neighbors in the area looked saddened as they came up the hill from the house on the bottom. Very little was said by anyone as area residents waited for any news of what occurred.
Only a few hours earlier the site was a home filled with family and friends visiting for the start of the weekend.
An earlier update to the news media from Young confirmed the unthinkable.
"There were several victims. It was a fatal fire with more than one victim," he noted around 1 p.m., after the last of the flames had been put out about a half-hour earlier.
Around 2 p.m. Young reported the bodies of the seven victims had been removed from the house.
The Times-Tribune will have more on the tragedy in Monday's edition.
(Becky Killian contributed to this story)