OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A fire that ripped through a home in Oklahoma City before dawn Wednesday killed a woman and her four children and left one man in critical condition with serious burns, authorities said.
Firefighters who arrived about 6:30 a.m. found the bodies of Jeanine Bonnet, 28, and her children inside the two-story, wood-frame home, Fire Department Maj. Tammy McKinney said. They found Brian Poletto, 39, outside the burning house while a man who rented a room at the home, David Ruppert, managed to escape the flames.
Polletto was in critical condition at a local hospital later Wednesday with second- and third-degree burns to his back and arms, McKinney said.
“When we got on scene, we had reports that there were children inside,” McKinney said. “The fire was so intense that we could not make entry and had to knock the fire down before we could make entry. That’s when we found the bodies.”
Police Sgt. Gary Knight identified the children as Kara Leon, 3; Matthew Zackary Leon, 5; Samantha Leon, 7; and Natalie Leon, 8.
Knight said there didn’t appear to be anything suspicious about the fire, which he called a tragedy, although investigators were still trying to determine a cause.
“It’s never a good time, but the day after Christmas, it’s horrible” Knight said.
Ruppert, while picking through the remains of the burned home Wednesday afternoon, said he was awake when he was startled by two popping noises that he heard coming from outside the first-floor room he was renting, causing him to open the door to the inner area of the home.
“All I was saw was smoke. My eyes were immediately burning,” Ruppert told The Associated Press.
“The kids didn’t have a chance,” Ruppert said. “If I hadn’t been up (awake) already, I’d have been dead too.”
Ruppert said the children typically stayed with their father, but were visiting their mother Tuesday for Christmas.
The bodies were sent to the medical examiner’s office in Oklahoma City for autopsies, according to McKinney.
McKinney said the home didn’t have working smoke detectors and was completely destroyed on the inside.
Three dogs were also killed in the blaze.
Associated Press writer Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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