After the fire, a grim task
Local and state personnel were working on the grim task Monday of combing through the debris from a cabin fire, searching for the remains of a 5-year-old who has been missing since the blaze.
Tyveon Temple reportedly came to the area with his parents and extended family Saturday for a vacation that turned into a tragedy. At about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, a fire broke out as the family slept in the seven-bedroom cabin. Relatives reportedly said they had talked to him and thought he was following as they tried to escape, only to find he wasn’t with them when they made it outside.
Monday, Sevier County fire investigator Jay Breeden and other investigators were sifting through the ruins of the house, trying to find Temple’s remains. Forensic anthropologists from The University of Tennessee had joined them with a machine that could help them identify human remains in the debris.
“With a three-story structure, you have a lot of fire debris,” Breeden said. "That’s a lot of work to do.
“We’re not going to stop working until we get to the point where there’s nothing left to search.”
It was a gut-wrenching task for the crews, knowing that they were simply trying to find remains to return to Temple’s family.
“We’re human. We’re not machines, we’re human,” Breeden said. “I know for a fact, for me, it’s hard. It’s very hard. There’s so many things going through your head. You want closure for the family, you want closure for us. We have children at home.”
A total of 22 people were in the cabin Sunday morning, having just made the trip Saturday from homes in Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis, local officials said. The fire apparently started in the front deck that served as the main entrance to the structure, which sits on a steep hill. There was reportedly a second exit in the rear on the lowest level, but several people were forced to jump from balconies on the upper levels onto the hill. Some were injured. Fifty-six-year-old Ricky Hudson reportedly helped others to safety and made it out of the fire himself, but died later at a local hospital.
The fire destroyed their vehicles, but officials said a church van from Indianapolis had taken several family members home. Others were still in the area.
It wasn’t clear if the cabin had working fire alarms. “We have different people in the same group saying there was a smoke alarm, and there wasn’t,” Breeden said.
The cabin is part of a set of rentals in the Cabins at the Crossing development, located off Collier Drive in an area that’s nestled between Pigeon Forge and Sevierville but hasn’t been annexed by either. The owners couldn’t be reached Monday.
Records indicate it was built in 2004, before the county had zoning regulations or building codes, Sevier County Planner Jeff Ownby said.
The new codes require that cabins have sprinklers, he said, but they don’t apply to cabins built before they were enacted.
“From a building code standpoint, there’s no retroactive ability to go out and require (updating the buildings to meet the new codes),” Ownby said.
The state did have regulations in place in 2004, and smoke detectors were required for the cabin, Ownby said.
The development had fire hydrants, which firefighters used while battling the blaze, Breeden said.