House fire claims life of boy, 3

Parents were able to get two other children out of home

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

A 3-year-old Sulphur Springs boy died Sunday in a house fire despite attempts by his parents and others to save the young child.

Funeral arrangements are pending for Cayden West, the son of Mike and Beth West, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:40 a.m. by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup.

Glossup said an autopsy was ordered, but only as a standard procedure.

"Nobody suspects anything," he said. "It's something routine we do in fatal fires."

Those who were at the scene of the fire paint a picture of heroic and desperate attempts to save the boy and two siblings, brother Casey, 6, and sister Mikayla, 2. A third child, Cayden's twin brother Connor, was away with his grandparents at the time of the fire, according to Jo Marie Neal with Hopkins County Salvation Army.

Sulphur Springs Fire Chief Gerry Cleaver said this morning investigators are still trying to piece together what caused to the fatal blaze. Their most important source of information, however, is Beth West, who suffered severe burns in the fire. She was first taken to Hopkins County Memorial Hospital Sunday but later transferred to the burn unit at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Due to her condition, no one had been able to interview her Sunday.

Assistant Fire Marshal Eric Hill was headed to the Dallas hospital this morning to try and glean more information about what happened when the fire broke out.

The first calls came in at 7:04 a.m. Sunday. By the time city firemen arrived in the 200 block of Morris Drive, the house was fully engulfed in flames.

"It was coming out the doors and windows," Cleaver said.

Fire crews did "a great job" of putting a stop to the fire, Cleaver said, even though they were concentrating on a specific part of the house — the area they knew the 3-year-old was likely at.

"We limited the fire suppression attempts to the area where the victim was thought to be," Cleaver said.

Beth West was apparently the only one in the house awake when she discovered the fire. She alerted Mike West of the fire. He was able to get out of the house through a window — sustaining multiple cuts from broken glass in the process — but firefighters were also told he rescued one or both of the other two children inside, Connor, 3, and Mikayla, 2.

Cleaver said Mike West attempted to go back into the house for Cayden, but the flames and smoke at that time were too much to overcome.

Neal said Beth West's worst burns were to her feet, and while she couldn't say definitively, Neal believed those injuries came when the mother tried to fight through the searing heat to save Cayden.

"She kept saying, 'Please, save my baby,'" Neal recalled.

The family lost virtually all their possessions in the fire, and Neal, as chair of Hopkins County Salvation Army, was seeking donations of clothing for the family Monday.

Sizes needed include:

-- Men's size 40 jeans, 2X-3X shirts, and size 15-16 shoes. (Neal said they were having an especially hard time finding shoes that size.)

-- Women's size 2X-3X tops and pants.

-- For Connor, age 3: 4T pants, shirts and underwear, size 10 1/2 shoes.

-- For Mikayla, age 2: 2T pants and shirts, #5 diapers, size 7-8 shoes.

-- Casey, age 6: Size 6 pants, shirts and underwear, size 13 1/2 shoes.

Clothing donations can be dropped off at The Bait and Tackle Shop (903-885-9858), 1702 South Broadway St., next to the Super Handy store west of Wal-Mart. Neal can be contacted by cell phone at 903-335-1032.

Donations of furniture can also be pledged by contacting Neal. An account for financial donations (the family had no insurance) was expected to be set up later today.

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