Investigation Continues in Fatal Blaze - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/13/02

Investigation Continues in Fatal Blaze

Early this morning. Early this morning.
Today. Today.

A fire ripped through a two-story house on Savannah's west side early this morning and killed three people, including a four-year-old boy. It happened 1000 block of West 38th Street. Ten people had lived in the house, but after the fire was put out, only seven survived.

Fire investigators say the fire started in an upstairs bedroom, but they still don't know what started it. While firefighters were able to put the fire out fast, it was the smoke that ended up doing the most damage. All people inside suffered from smoke inhalation, and two older women and the boy died from it.

There is no word yet on how this started. Investigators say it could take a number of days before they know.

Before firefighters even arrived, a number of neighbors got involved, either giving victims CPR or helping victms off the roof of the house. Firefighters say without their help, the tragedy could have been much worse.

David Lukata is a carpenter who lives right across the street from the family. He was in the right place at the right time, and had the guts to do the right thing.

"I saw the fire gushing out of the upstairs house across the street, and I heard some people hollering and screaming, yelling, 'help, help, help!'" Lukata recalls.

Immediately, and without thought for his own safety, Lukata went to work. Because he's a carpenter, he works with ladders. He grabbed one from the side of his house and one off his truck and put them both up to the second-floor window.

"We immediately tried to bring the children out," said Lukata. "I kept hollering for more neighbors to come, but no one could hear me because it was raining."

Lukata's wife, Sharon, called 911, but by the time firefighters arrived, David and his neighbors had already rescued two adults and three children, including a tiny baby.

"My son brought the baby to me and I told him the baby wasn't breathing," said neighbor Helen Hudson. "I turned the baby over and started a little CPR and called my husband when i saw EMS arriving to please take the baby to them."

Lukata, who has five children himself, says the children's safety was his only concern.

"At that time, the only thing I could think about was the fact that they were burning so severely, that if we didn't get those people out, they were going to burn up. That's what I went up there for, to get them out," he said. "Anybody would do that. Anybody would help. Anybody with a conscience of God in the heart and mind would have helped."

Reported by: Elizabeth Garcia, egarcia@wtoc.com, and Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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