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Boy, 3, dies in Martinsburg, W.Va., fire

November 14, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A 3-year-old Martinsburg boy died Saturday night from smoke inhalation and complications stemming from a house fire, according to medical and fire officials.

The boy's twin sister and 4-year-old brother were in critical condition Sunday night at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Fire officials did not release the names of the children or their parents.

The children's mother was not injured, said Capt. Brad Waldeck with the Martinsburg Fire Department. The father was at work when the fire occurred early Saturday at 211 E. Liberty St., Waldeck said.

The cause of the 2:43 a.m. fire was still under investigation by fire officials and Martinsburg City Police.

The next-door neighbor's son alerted emergency officials to the fire.

Ed Barney, 33, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., was on his way to his mother's house to pick up his son after closing his liquor store, Ed's Beer and Wine, for the night when he saw black smoke coming out of the top of the two-story gray house.

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"I did not see fire. I saw tons of smoke there," Barney said.

"I heard a lady on the roof. She was screaming for help," he said. The children's mother had climbed out on a rear roof, where she told Barney her children were still inside.

Barney said he called 911 from his mother's home before trying to get into the burning house.

The front door was bolted shut, so Barney said he climbed up on the back roof where the mother had been and opened a window. But the smoke was too thick for him to go inside so he held the window open until police and firefighters arrived in about two minutes, he said.

Firefighters retrieved the children from an upstairs bedroom, Waldeck said.

The fire was contained downstairs, but the heat and smoke reached the upstairs, Waldeck said. As of Sunday, fire officials did not know where the fire had started.

On Sunday two child car seats sat on the front porch with a fallen child car seat nearby. Yellow caution tape was wrapped around the porch.

Red roses and a small white stuffed animal had been laid before the front door.

The family of five moved into the house this summer, neighbors said, adding they didn't know their names and weren't too familiar with them.

Geneva Brown, 79, of 207 Liberty St., said the family members are "nice, quiet people."

The woman was a good mother, said Brown's daughter-in-law, Faye Brown, of Martinsburg.

The children, who looked like triplets, visited Geneva Brown's for Halloween, Faye Brown said.

"She never left them out by themselves. She kept a close watch on them," Geneva Brown said.

The child's death "shook the whole block up," she said.

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