BLAIN, Pa. (AP) — A fire at a farmhouse killed seven children while their mother was in a barn milking cows and their father was taking a nap in a milk delivery truck, a state trooper said Wednesday.
A 3-year-old girl survived Tuesday night's blaze. Those who perished ranged in age from 7 months to 11 years.
The children's father had left the two-story home, on a working farm in dairy country not far from the state capital, to get his truck around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Trooper Tom Pinkerton said. Two children, ages 2 and 3, were watching television at the time.
The father drove a short distance away to pick up milk and then parked the truck about a mile from home. Then, Pinkerton said, he nodded off.
Soon after, the 3-year-old smelled smoke in the home and ran to the barn to alert the mother, Pinkerton said. The mother told a neighbor to call 911, ran with the child to the father's truck and banged on its windows, screaming that their home was on fire, he said.
By the time the father returned to the home it was fully engulfed by flames, Pinkerton said. Firefighters had arrived and were battling the blaze at the charred home, whose windows were blown out.
The Perry County coroner ruled the children died of smoke inhalation, Pinkerton said.
A neighbor, Deana Doran, said her dog's barking woke her up around 11 p.m. and she thought she heard someone calling, "Hello! Hello!"
She told The Associated Press she saw the first-floor rear of the home burning and dialed 911. Once she got outside she saw the flames spreading to the rest of the home.
Doran said her 10-year-old son is friends with the 11-year-old girl who lives at the home.
"He played with her every day," Doran said, visibly distraught. "I don't know how I'm going to handle this."
No cause or origin of the fire had been determined by early Wednesday morning. Fire marshals were investigating.
A fire truck and an ambulance remained at the scene while firefighters sifted through debris on the ground floor of the farmhouse, which is surrounded by barns and silos.
The house is one of a cluster of homes near an intersection in Blain, a rural stretch of farm land about 20 miles north of Harrisburg.
Authorities closed part of a highway near the farm because of the fire and the investigation. The highway, Route 274, was shut in both directions, and traffic was rerouted.