CONYERS, Ga. — Four children, including an infant, died in a late-night house fire outside Atlanta even as rescuers tried to save them and a fifth child was thrown to safety by his mother, authorities said Wednesday.
The 6-year-old who survived was tossed from a second-floor window as the fire burned Tuesday in a duplex in Conyers, east of Atlanta.
“It saved his life,” said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Georgia’s fire commissioner. The thrown child injured his shoulder in the fall.
In all, seven people were in the home: a grandmother, the mother and the five children, Allen said. The children who died were ages 8 months, 3, 5, and 7, he said.
The mother was in serious condition at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with second- and third-degree burns on her back and arms, Allen said.
Neighbor Lamonta Stroud, 18, said he ran to the duplex, smashing windows and pleading with the children to come to a bathroom and escape.
“I just started hitting windows, breaking windows, breaking windows, screaming ‘come to the bathroom, come to the bathroom, I can get you all out, come to the bathroom, I can get you all out,’” Stroud recalled.
He said a little girl was at a window but would not jump, possibly because she was scared.
“There really wasn’t that much I could do,” Stroud recalled in a soft voice. “I tried.”
The surviving child was being treated at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, and his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, the Rockdale County Fire and Rescue Department said in a statement.
The children were in one unit of a two-story duplex in the town about 25 miles east of Atlanta. The other unit of the duplex was vacant, Allen said.
Officers arrived on the scene quickly after the fire was reported about 11 p.m. and tried unsuccessfully to put it out with handheld fire extinguishers, Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson told WXIA-TV.
By the time firefighters arrive, the home was fully engulfed by flames, said Dan Morgan, chief of Rockdale County Fire and Rescue.
“They had flames coming out at least two windows, one on the back side, and they entered the home, went upstairs and extinguished the fire while another crew retrieved the children and brought them out to try to revive them,” Morgan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Late Wednesday, officials investigating the fire said it likely started in a bathroom and hallway on the second floor.
Tonya Parker, Rockdale County Spokeswoman, said officials had not determined the cause. Allen said the severity of the damage might impede investigators from quickly determining its cause.
Meanwhile, Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home in Conyers offered to handle funeral arrangements for the four children who died in the fire at no cost, Parker said.
Rockdale County fire officials plan to conduct community outreach in the neighborhood focused on fire safety. Officials weren’t yet certain whether the home had working smoke detectors.
Stroud said he knew the family well, and one of the girls who died was his sister’s best friend.
“All the kids out here are like a family,” he said. “And it hurts us all when we see something like this happen. ... It’s like my little brothers and sisters are gone now.”