GOODFIELD – Five people, including three children, are dead after an overnight fire at a mobile home northeast town.
According to Woodford County Coroner Tim Ruestman, first responders were notified of the fire at 11:19 p.m. Saturday at 14 Cypress Court in the Timberline Trailer Court.
“We were asleep and my son heard the explosions and came and woke us up as he was calling 911,” commented neighbor, Anna Marie Siebert. “My husband and son shot over to see if they could get anyone out. I came over to try and help keep the family back up and away and that’s hard to do because they do not want to leave.”
When firefighters arrived, they found the home fully engulfed. Two people escaped and were transported to OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, but five others in the residence were killed. Pronounced dead at the scene at 11:55 p.m. were Kathryn Murray, 69, Jason Wall, 34, Rose Alwood, 2, Damien Wall, 2, and 1-year-old Ariel Wall.
Katrina Alwood and Kyle Alwood were treated and released from St. Francis. The relationships among the children and adults were not immediately available.
“It was surreal,” Siebert said. “It was just a fireball when we got over here. Flames were shooting out from the center of the home and from the end. There was quite a bit of screaming and crying.”
The fire remains under investigation by the Woodford County Sheriff’s Department, the Eureka-Goodfield Fire Department, the Woodford County Coroner’s office, Illinois State Police and the Illinois Fire Marshal.
Autopsies were conducted Sunday and Ruestman released the findings on Monday.
“All five victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said. “That was caused by the byproducts of the fire itself.”
Park Manager Shawn Johnson also was one of the first to arrive on the scene.
“I got a call about the fire and that I needed to get over here,” he said. “I did not realize the extent until I came around the corner and saw the flames coming out. The living room area was fully engulfed. When I ran around to the back side, it was even worse. At least three-quarters of the trailer was on fire and I could feel the heat.”
Johnson added a family member of the residents in the trailer lived nearby and was trying to get inside to save them, but was unable to because of the intense heat.
“He was extremely upset and his face was really smokey,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, the family had lived in the trailer for about a year.
“Anytime you lose a life, it’s a big deal, but to the people in this park, it’s heartfelt and hits real close to home,” he said. “I know the folks that were in there. Jason is a combat veteran and we would talk. I was never in combat, but I know just recently he was going to get help from the Veterans Administration (VA). He was a quiet guy and never bothered anyone. He had a job at the local gas station for a while."
Siebert described the family as friendly and she added, "They were always a real nice family and quick to say hello. “It was always fun to see the kids playing outside.”
According to Siebert, she did not sleep well early Sunday.
“I kept hearing it over in my head all night long, just children crying and moms crying for their babies. It’s horrible. I have spent years in the emergency medical services (EMS) and like Shawn in the service, we have been seasoned. It never leaves. You just want to go in and hug all of your children and grandchildren and neighbors.”
Residents of the Timberline Trailer Court gathered outside their homes Sunday morning to console each other.
“My granddaughter came and woke me up and told me there was a fire and we might have to leave,” said Marie Chockley, who lives a few blocks away. “I looked out and the flames were really high in the air. What a terrible tragedy, such a terrible loss. Bless their hearts.”