By JB Clark and Adam Armour
Daily Journal, Itawamba County Times
Danny Pugh thought someone was shining headlights through his bedroom window shortly after midnight Tuesday morning, but when he pulled his curtains back to check, he saw his neighbors’ mobile home engulfed in flames.
“By the time I called 911 and put my boots on and got out there, Mr. Lee – my neighbor – was already out there, and one man (Yinessa Brunson) was coming out through the window and trying to get back in to get others out, but it was too hot, and the smoke too thick,” he said.
Four of the nine people who were in the Itawamba County mobile home died in or as a result of the fire: Susan G. Chilcoat, 35; Shelby Cason, 17; Anna Clair Chilcoat, 2; and Kaden Angle, 3 months old.
The three youngest died at the scene, and Chilcoat died later at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
David Shane Angle, 27, is being treated at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, and Addison Chilcoat, 2, is at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
Scotty Walls, 9, Hailey Cheyanne Young, a child, and Yinessa Brunson, an adult, all got out of the home and were treated and released from the hospital.
It was not clear what the relationships were between the various people in the home at the time of the fire.
The burned-out home sits on a short row of mobile homes, less than a quarter-mile long, on Highway 371, between the Cayson and Evergreen communities near the Itawamba-Monroe County line.
When emergency crews arrived, between 12:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., and began to pull people out of the fire, Pugh and his wife Lisa took blankets and sheets to cover the cold and burned occupants.
“It was horrific, when they brought the baby out,” said Lisa Pugh. “I thought she was dead, and they laid her down next to the guy. I saw she was breathing and grabbed a cover and all the sheets Danny uses for painting. He had a full head of hair, and it was all burnt. His baby girl had a head full of beautiful blonde hair, and it was gone. It was awful.”
She said the fire department had to bring the fire victims out of their yard, across the street and into her yard because flames were so large.
Another neighbor, Gina Roberts, let her son, Blake, stay home from school because he was so shaken by the fire. He often played with the children who were killed and injured in the fire, especially Scotty Walls, who survived the blaze. Roberts said Blake asked her if they could care for Scotty’s dog while they were recovering.
According to Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson, the fire started just after midnight Tuesday and quickly engulfed the living room of the home. Members of the Cayson and Evergreen fire departments responded to the scene, as did investigators with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and the state fire marshal’s office.
Dickinson said everything leads them to believe the fire was caused by a gas space heater in the living room.
One of the children told Itawamba County investigators that the children had been playing near the heater earlier in the evening.
“While the incident is still under investigation, preliminary results show that this was a tragic accident,” Dickinson said.