NEW CASTLE (KDKA) — Three people died in an early-morning fire in New Castle on Wednesday.
The fire started around 5:30 a.m. on West Clayton Street near Sixth Street, New Castle Fire Chief Michael Kobbe said. Two minors and an adult were killed in the flames.
Kobbe said two of the people lived there and one was visiting. The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen area in the downstairs of the house.
The Lawrence County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as 41-year-old Courtney Payne, 17-year-old Terianna Payne-Hicks and 18-year-old Xzavia Booker. Courtney and Terianna are mother and daughter. Xzavia was a friend of Terianna.
Smoke is believed to have played a factor in the three deaths, Kobbe said.
One of the victims was found on the first floor, a second victim was on the staircase, and the third victim was upstairs. The upstairs victim called 911.
Kobbe said smoke may have disoriented the victims because it filled up the home to the point that it reached the floor.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Kobbe said. “Close to the holidays is bad, but this is just bad in general. The community down here is tightknit. This is a very, very family-oriented community. This is going tear this community apart for a couple days, but (they’ll) band together. That’s what they’ll do.”
It was an emotional scene as loved ones arrived throughout the morning. One had to be treated. It appeared she was having trouble breathing. She was OK after medics tended to her.
Terianna was a student in the New Castle Area School District.
“At this time it was confirmed that it is one of our students. She was a part of the NCASD cheerleading squad. As I said earlier, grief counselors will be available today for the cheerleaders along with the advisors. Monday, when students return, grief counselors along with our entire guidance staff will be available to students and staff. This is a terrible tragedy; our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to the family,” a statement from Debbie DeBlasio, the superintendent of the New Castle Area School District, said.
Kobbe said autopsies will be performed at the Beaver Medical Center.
The cause of the fire is not known, but it was not believed to be suspicious. New Castle police and the state police fire marshal are investigating.