GRAY, Ky. (AP) — Under rainy skies on Monday, fire investigators sifted through the charred remains of a house where seven people died in a weekend fire, while offers of support ranged from free funeral services to donations left in an empty bubble gum container.
The fire Saturday morning killed an engaged couple and five children, including two friends who were spending the night. Authorities hadn't determined the cause or released the victims' names Monday.
"It's heartbreaking losing them kids like that. Those kids were helpless," said Bobby James Disney, whose nephew was one of the adults killed.
At the nearby J&G Market convenience store, which doubles as a coffee shop and community gathering point, clerk Amy Weddle said: "Everybody's just so sad."
Weddle, who circulated a sympathy card among customers for the family of one of the adults killed, said people have called from as far away as California promising to send money to help the victims' families. An empty bubble-gum container placed on the store counter for donations contained $34 Monday morning.
"We've got so many people calling or coming by wanting to give money," she said.
Family members said the victims included the couple, the woman's three children and two young friends who were spending the night. The children ranged in age from 10 months to 3 years.
Eric Grisell, owner of Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in Corbin, said he is donating services to the family of the children who were visiting.
Investigators were combing through the one-story house Monday for clues to the cause of the blaze that was discovered about 9 a.m. EST. State fire officials said it could be a while before a cause is determined.
Autopsies on the seven bodies were continuing Monday, said State Police Trooper Shane Jacobs, who also declined to discuss what may have caused the blaze. Knox County Coroner Michael Blevins said it will likely be Tuesday before the identities of those killed are released.
Disney picked through the debris that littered the property Monday, including charred photos, books, children's art, broken glass and pieces of the collapsed roof. He spoke with investigators. He said the house that burned, which is in a rural area populated with brick homes, trailers and small farms, was his childhood home, and he still lives in a neighboring home. The area contains the homes of so many family members that it's nicknamed "Disneyland."
"You got to come by the place every day and look at it," he said. "It's sad. I grew up in this house. There's a lot of memories in this house for me."
Disney said he still cannot believe what happened.
"It's not set in yet," he said. "It won't set in until you go to the funeral home and see the bodies."
Gray is a few miles outside Corbin, a city of about 7,000 in the foothills of Appalachia near the Daniel Boone National Forest and the borders of Tennessee and Virginia.
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