Cabin fire claims lives of two vacationers
Older man, young child are victims of blaze
Apr. 14, 2014 @ 09:32 AM
A fire at a rental cabin early Saturday morning resulted in the apparent death of two vacationers visiting the area.
An older man, 56-year-old Ricky Hudson, perished after escaping the blaze, while 5-year-old Tayveon Temple remained unaccounted for as state and local investigators combed through the ash, soot and charred debris that remained of the seven-bedroom rental cabin.
“At approximately 4:30 a.m. (Saturday) morning a report of a structure fire came in with people possibly trapped inside the structure that couldn’t get out,” Sevier County Fire Marshall J.J. Breeden said.
It was around that time that neighbor Jenny Urse, a permanent resident in the Cabins at the Crossing development, awoke to screams.
The cries for help were coming from the cabin next door.
“We were totally asleep,” Urse recalled. “At first I thought, ‘Oh my God, is a bear attacking somebody? Because the scream was so crazy, and we’ve seen bear here before.”
It wasn’t a bear.
Flames had forced members of a vacationing group of as many as 24 people — all from Indiana, according to Breeden — out onto the second-floor balcony of the large three-story rental cabin next door to Urse’s home .
“When somebody’s looking at you and saying, ‘Help!’ that’s really hard to deal with,” she said.
But she did well, helping convince many of the family that a leap to safety from 15-20 feet above was their only choice.
“They started dropping the kids down,” she said. “The parents, I don’t think, wanted to jump at first. But then the window exploded — it sounded like a bomb — and then they knew they had to jump.
“I was just telling them, ‘You’ve got to jump!’ They couldn’t go out the front. The front was over. There was no way. Then the cars started exploding — two big vans and a car.
“The women were looking at me like, ‘We can’t jump!’ But I said, ‘You don’t have an option, you’ve got to jump!”
Once those that made it out were safe on the ground, there were other concerns.
“There was several people that did exit the home by going over a balcony,” Breeden said. “When (firefighters) arrived they found several occupants outside the home, several were injured with minor abrasions, some had some broken bones. They were transported to LeConte Medical Center ... where they received treatment.”
One of those that had escaped the flames was having more serious problems.
“The grandpa, he jumped out and was fine, but then he had a heart attack — I think — from the shock,” Urse said.
Breeden confirmed that one person had died “after the fire.” On Sunday, county officials said by email that Hudson had "suffered injuries while attempting to get family members out of the cabin and was pronounced dead at LeConte Medical Center."
The child's remains had still not been found by Sunday afternoon.
"Investigators are still working to recover his remains," the county said at 2:55 p.m.
Though almost an afterthought after the tragedy next door, Urse’s own house became a worry after the burning cabin was evacuated.
“Some cabins are very close, these have a pretty good distance, but — I don’t know if you can tell — ours is black right there,” she said. “Our cabin is actually charred, because it started to catch, but (firefighters) were able to put it out.”
It was written on Urse’s face that she was upset for the vacationing family.
“We just feel for them,” she said. “They had just come in yesterday around 4 (p.m.). They were so excited, taking pictures, jumping in the pool — a cute family. I feel for them.
“I know they lost two people. They’re going to need a lot of prayer.”
Early investigation has given no indication of a possible cause for the blaze.
“We’re still in the early stages of talking to everybody,” Breeden said.
“We’re very early, but there’s nothing at this point that indicates (arson). We obviously have a lot of investigation to do, but at this point there’s nothing at this points to that.”
Sheriff’s Office deputies were the first to arrive on the scene, according to the fire marshall.
“In a matter of minutes, a couple, few minutes,” he said. “Fire departments were shortly after, I would say they were on the scene in five to six minutes. The initial response was Sevier County Fire, Northview Fire and Waldens Creek Fire.
Very quickly, though, the city of Sevierville was requested, since their stations are so close, and they got here really quick and helped us out.”
In addition to the cabin being a total loss, three vehicles were destroyed by the fire.
“They were all rental vehicles that the family had rented,” Breeden said.
“They were probably 10-15 feet away, the structure already had heavy fire before the vehicles started burning.”
A team of nine officials, a state bomb and arson squad and the sheriff’s office fire investigation team, were still trying to sort things out on-site following the press conference Saturday afternoon.