Firefighters also need support after fatal fire
It was quiet on Powers Way on Youngstown's south side Monday evening, but less than 24 hours ago, it was a different scene for Youngstown firefighters.
"It is nothing you get used to," Battalion Chief Ron Russo said.
He was referring to a fire early Monday that claimed the lives of a Youngstown couple and their 10-year-old granddaughter.
"We have an occupation that is tragic. You know that going in," Russo said.
He has been fighting fires for years and he said specific blazes are seared into his mind.
"It is a little different with kids. It's a little different when you are taking a body out. Things you just don't forget," Russo said.
Monday's fatal fire was a first for some of the firefighters.
"A lot of young guys saw death for the first time last night," Russo said.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly one child dies every day from fires nationwide. It's a number that has decreased from nearly two children a day a decade ago.
"They saw what a fire can actually do," Russo said.
And the firefighters in Youngstown will depend on each other to move forward after Monday's tragic blaze. Russo said in extreme situations, firefighters can go to St. Elizabeth Health Center for help to cope, but in most situations, the support at the fire station is enough for them.
Regardless, Russo said they will regroup and prepare for the next fire.
"What we do, somebody has to do it and we do it," he said.
There were 115 fire-related deaths in Ohio last year.
Memorial placed at site of deadly Youngstown fire
As the Mahoning County Coroner prepares to perform autopsies Tuesday on the three people killed in a fire in Youngstown Monday, family and friends have set up a makeshift memorial at the house on Powers Way.
Autopsies will be performed on Tuesday on William Schmidt, 63, Judy Schmidt, 61, and their 10-year-old granddaughter. Judy Schmidt has not been positively identified as of yet by Mahoning County Coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr, but he said the adult female victim is likely her.
Ohr said an external exam of the victims did not show any sign of obvious trauma.
Investigators with the Youngstown Police Department, Youngstown Fire Department and the Ohio state fire marshal at the home on Powers Way Tuesday morning. A crime scene investigator also came to the scene and took photos.
Some workers at the scene used a small saw to cut up pieces of materials removed from the home and then put them in bags. Investigators are looking for any information that might help them identify the cause of the fire.
The evidence was marked and will be preserved for later use. It could eventually be sent to a lab for analysis if need be.
Teddy bears, wreaths and crosses are lining the lawn of the house Tuesday morning. Friends and family gathered throughout the night to place mementos and to remember the family lost in the fire.
Emergency crews were called to the house about 3 a.m. Monday after neighbors heard an explosion and a fire broke out.
Windows were shattered in the house and crews at the scene said they believe the fire started in the basement, but a cause has not been determined.
The 10-year-old child was a fourth-grader in the South Range school district. Administrators are providing grief counselors for students at the districtís K-12 campus.
Coroner: Smoke killed three Youngstown fire victims
Authorities say all three victims of Monday's house fire died as a result of smoke inhalation.
An autopsy conducted by Mahoning County Deputy Coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr confirmed his earlier findings that there were no signs of trauma on the bodies of 10-year-old Corinne Gump, or her grandparents, 63-year-old William Schmidt and his 61-year-old wife Judith.
Ohr believes that all three victims died quickly as a result of the rapidly spreading fire which sent heavy smoke and extreme heat throughout the house, displacing oxygen in the lungs of the victims.
Before making a ruling as to whether the deaths were accidental or intentional, Dr. Ohr says he is waiting for investigators to determine what caused the fire to break out at the home on Powers Way.
While investigators continue efforts to determine a cause of the fire, police detectives are working to preserve potential evidence in the event the cause was not accidental.
Fire Chief John O'Neill says nothing will be overlooked. "The team that's been put together to investigate this is a very professional team," said O'Neill.
Youngstown detectives are taking photographs to record the scene and cutting up and bagging samples of materials which could be important later.
A gas explosion has not been ruled out, but the chief says that type of blast would usually send debris flying away from the building and other damage.
"Typically we'll see foundation damage and upper structure damage as well as damage to nearby homes," O'Neill said.
Arson investigator Alvin Ware was asked if they are close to determining a cause?
"I can't say right now what we have. It's still under investigation," Ware said.
The mother of the ten year old girl who died in the fire was brought to the scene yesterday. The fire happened just hours before her former boyfriend Robert Seman was supposed to go on trial for the alleged rape of her daughter. Seman is back in jail after his bond was revoked, and the trial has been postponed.
The chief says with many agencies involved it's important that they share information.
"They need to talk with each other and make sure that each others evidence is available to the other, Anything they find out is available to the others because it could help on either side of the investigation," O'Neill said.
A memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and other items is getting larger in front of the house on Powers Way.
Rape suspect's trial delayed after victim dies in Youngstown fire
A Mahoning County assistant prosecutor has asked for the trial of a man suspected of rape to be delayed after the girl who prosecutors believe to be his victim was one of three people who died in a house fire early Monday morning.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin asked for the trial of Robert Seman, Jr., 46, to be delayed Monday. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday at 8:30 a.m.
McLaughlin also said that the Youngstown Police Department believes Seman tried to bribe a potential witness in the case. McLaughlin called Seman a "danger to the public." Authorities have revoked bond for Seman.
Goshen Police arrested Seman on March 15, 2014, after court authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. A Mahoning County Grand Jury later indicted Seman.
The victim's mother contacted police March 10, 2014 to report that her daughter told her Seman had been engaging in sexual conduct with her for several years.
The girl was a fourth-grade student at South Range Elementary and had been a student there since kindergarten, according to school Principal Steve Matos.
Firefighters arrived at a house at 3631 Powers Way on Youngstown's south side around 3 a.m. Monday after neighbors heard an explosion and called 911.
Firefighters searched the house and have confirmed that three people died in the fire. Prosecutors confirmed in court that the three people were the girl believed to be the rape victim and her grandparents.
Neighbors said a couple and their granddaughter lived in the house and that the grandparents were deaf.
The windows of the house were shattered, but firefighters were not sure if an explosion occurred.
Firefighters at the scene said they believe the fire started in the basement but were not sure of the cause of the fire.
Youngstown couple and granddaughter killed in early morning house fire
Three people have died in an early morning house fire in Youngstown.
The Youngstown Fire Department says the fire broke out around 3:45 a.m. Monday on the south side of the city, The Associated Press reported.
Youngstown Fire Chief John O'Neill told The Youngstown Vindicator two adults and a child were deceased and 30 firefighters and nearly all of the city's fire trucks were on the scene of the blaze, in the 3600 block of Powers Way.
"It was fully involved. We had quite a bit of fire in the basement, so that's the likely origin," he told The Youngstown Vindicator. "They had fire all through the house, top to bottom. The floors were giving way almost immediately upon entry."
Fire officials haven't released the names or ages of the three who died, according to The Associated Press.
Neighbors told WKBN-TV in Youngstown a couple and their granddaughter lived in the house and the grandparents were deaf.
WKBN-TV is reporting the girl may have been a rape victim. A Mahoning County assistant prosecutor has asked for the rape trial of Robert Seman, which was scheduled to start today, to be delayed after the girl who prosecutors believe to be his victim was killed in the house fire.
Firefighters were called to the house after neighbors heard an explosion and called 911, WKBN-TV reported.
Jean McCammon told the Youngstown Vindicator she was jolted awake by an explosion and seconds later saw the burning house across the street, with firefighters arriving soon after that.
"My feet hit the floor, and I looked at the clock. It was 3:41," McCammon, 82, told The Youngstown Vindicator, saying at first she thought a vehicle had hit a utility pole because her lights were flickering.
"The fire was coming out of the basement, and by the time I got to my front door, which was about nine steps, the whole thing was gone," she told The Youngstown Vindicator of the house, which, by then was fully engulfed in flames. "You couldn't tell there was a house there."
McCammon told The Youngstown Vindicator a middle-aged couple and their 8-year-old granddaughter lived in the house.
"They were good people. They got along fine, and they were in no trouble with anybody. They came over here in the winter and shoveled my driveway, and, in the fall, raked the leaves," McCammon told The Youngstown Vindicator. "The little girl was just the light of their lives."
It is not clear what sparked the fire, and firefighters are continuing to search for additional victims this morning, WKBN-TV is reporting.
The windows of the house were shattered, but it has not been confirmed that an explosion occurred, according to WKBN-TV.
Youngstown Fire Capt. Perry Harrison was injured when he fell through the first floor into the basement and was taken to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, The Youngstown Vindicator reported.
"He was banged up pretty bad, but I think he'll be OK," O'Neill told The Youngstown Vindicator.
O'Neill told The Youngstown Vindicator firefighters did not know whether the house had any smoke detectors.