A house fire that killed two women and severely burned an infant Monday morning has been ruled an accident.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff David Taylor announced that an investigation by his office, the Union County Coroner’s Office, and the SLED Arson Team into a fire that destroyed a house at 406 Sims Avenue in the Ottaray Mill Village had determined that the cause of the fire was accidental. Taylor said that while the exact cause of the fire is still undetermined, investigators have ruled out the possibility of any wrongdoing. He said he looks for the investigation to be closed out by the end of the week.
The fire claimed the lives of two women, identified Wednesday afternoon by Union County Coroner William Holcombe as Arletta Stepp Knox, 78, and Tammy Knox Schumpert, 54, both of 406 Sims Avenue. The women’s bodies were found in the house by firefighters and were transported to Newberry Hospital where autopsies were performed Wednesday morning to confirm their identities and determine the cause of death. Holcombe said the pathologist who performed the autopsies determined the women died of carbon monoxide poisoning and thermal injury due to the fire.
Eleven fire departments from throughout the county were dispatched to the house at 10:30 a.m. Monday, but by the time firefighters arrived the building was totally engulfed by flames. Firefighters would remain on the scene for the next four hours battling the blaze before it was finally extinguished.
Before firefighers arrived, however, the littlest victim of the fire had been rescued from the house, but not before suffering severe injuries.
Taylor said Monday that a passerby had seen smoke coming from the house and managed to force open the front door and pull the child, who he identified as Alyssia Brianna Landrum, out of the building. The child’s rescuer was not, however, able to go back in for Schumpert and Knox who Taylor said were, respectively, the child’s grandmother and great-grandmother.
Even though she was rescued from the flames, the child, who Taylor said is a one-year-old, was so badly burned she had to be airlifted from Wallace Thomson Hospital to the Georgia Medical College Children’s Hospital in Augusta, Ga., and then to the Augusta Burn Center. Taylor said Wednesday afternoon the child is listed in critical condition at the burn center.