Thursday, January 1, 2004

Mother, 2 kids killed in blaze

Gallatin Co. fire blamed on cord

By Jim Hannah and William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WARSAW, Ky. - A 21-year-old mother and her two young children died Wednesday in a fire in their Gallatin County trailer home that authorities say was started by a faulty extension cord.

Manuel Velasquez discovered his wife and their children, a 2-year-old daughter and a 3-month-old son, unconscious when he returned home from his job stripping tobacco. The fire had burned out by the time he arrived, said Gallatin County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Neale.

"He grabbed the children and took them (in a vehicle) to a neighbor's house,'' Neale said. "He rushed out saying 9-1-1."

Velasquez, a farm hand from Mexico who speaks little English, rushed back to the trailer and with the help of a relative pulled his wife onto the driveway in the 3000 block of Knox Lillard Road, Neale said.

The children, Alexander Velasquez and Naomi Velasquez, were pronounced dead at the scene. Citialli Hernandez, 21, was taken to Carroll County Memorial Hospital, in Carrollton, where she was pronounced dead.

The family lived in a rural area just west of Warsaw, and about 45 miles south of Cincinnati.

Neale said the Kentucky State Police and Kentucky State Fire Marshal determined the blaze was an accidental electrical fire, caused by a faulty extension cord.

It appears the victims all suffered smoke inhalation, Neale said. Hernandez also suffered some burns.

"Apparently the mother tried to put the fire out."

Todd Gould, a next-door neighbor and friend of the family, said Velasquez had been stripping tobacco when the fire broke out.

Word of the fire raced through this small community. When Gould heard about the fire, he rushed to the trailer, where he saw Velasquez holding his children in the back of an ambulance trying "to wake them up."

There was no visible fire damage to the outside of the trailer, which sits on a rolling hillside. Laundry was still hanging on the line about 2 feet from the trailer.

The family had been in the United States for about four years and Velasquez worked for Gallatin County farmer Kenny Cozine, Gould said.

The family rented the trailer from Cozine, he said.

"This was a family of great love," said Gould's fiancee, Jeri Ketron, 28. "A family of warmth and generosity."

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