Meridian Star

April 22, 2013

Investigation under way into fatal fire

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Whenever firefighters hear there may be people caught inside a burning home their pulse quickens, the foot presses on the gas pedal a little more and their heart goes out to those involved.

    "I kept hoping on the way to the fire scene that dispatch was wrong, that maybe the people at the scene were mistaken," said Billy Stuckey, fire chief for the Toomsuba Fire and Rescue Department. "But when we arrived we found out that wasn't the case."

    Two people, Clyde Pendergrass, 70, and Conner Pendergrass, 2, died in the blaze. Another person, David Pendergrass, received burns that required his being transported to a burn center in Jackson. There was no word Sunday on his condition.

    The fire broke out shortly before midnight Friday. Stuckey said when fire units arrived on the scene at 5008 Wright Spur Road, the mobile home, with an overbuilt roof and exterior walls, was fully engulfed in flames and smoke.

    "We had the report of two people still inside the structure and when we arrived and found out they were still inside our hearts just sank," said Stuckey. "It is a firefighter's worst fear."

    Stuckey said firefighters from Toomsuba, Russell, and Lauderdale, joined by personnel from the Southeast District, were able to knock down the flames fairly quickly. A recovery operation was performed to remove the bodies of the victims.

    Lauderdale County Fire Service Coordinator Allan Dover said Sunday afternoon he and state and county fire inspectors spent time at the scene to try and determine the exact cause of the fire. He said there has been no definitive answer.

    "We are still investigating the fire and should have results soon," said Dover.

    There were reportedly two other people inside the home at the time of the fire. A woman and another child were able to escape the flames safely, said Keith Reed with the Lauderdale County Fire Service.