JONANCY, Ky. -- An early morning blaze at a home in rural eastern Kentucky killed four children and their father on Wednesday and left the mother severely burned when she attempted to save her children from the flames.
The fire at the small home in southern Pike County began around 2:30 a.m., state police Trooper Tony Watts said. The child's mother was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington with injuries.
Pike County Coroner Russell Roberts said the bodies of the five victims were found in the home's living room, where they had been sleeping near an electric space heater.
A relative who lives nearby said she woke up early Wednesday morning to find the house fully engulfed by flames.
"There was nothing I could do, I got second-degree burns just getting close to it," said Glema Blair, the children's great aunt.
By Wednesday afternoon, a makeshift memorial had gone up at the site of the single story frame home on a narrow, serpentine road that leads up the hillside. Red flowers and four blue balloons decorated the memorial and included a collage with pictures of the father and the four children.
Near the charred remnants of the home was playground equipment, a swing set and a tricycle.
Just after the fire started, Blair, who lives behind the home, ran to the fire and saw the children's mother, Tammie Tucker, and Tucker's father, James Tucker, attempting to get inside. Tammie Tucker was taken to UK Medical Center with severe burns, Blair said.
"She was trying her best," said Blair, who was fighting back tears in an interview with The Associated Press.
Hospital spokeswoman Julie Phillips said Tucker was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.
James Tucker said he was awakened by his daughter beating on the window of his home, screaming "Help, Daddy, help!"
"When I opened up the curtain and looked out the window, the whole house was up in flames," James Tucker said. His daughter yelled through the window, "I need help getting the babies out of the house."