Deadly condo fire: Osage Beach Condo Fire

Published: August 6, 2015

Deadly condo fire: Osage Beach Condo Fire, Four children died in a condominium fire late Tuesday. Investigators are treating the fire as suspicious until they know otherwise, but the police chief and fire chief said Wednesday morning that’s a routine part of a fatal fire and not an indication that emergency responders think the fire is a criminal matter.

Two children were 2 years old; one was 4 years old and one was 5 years old. Firefighters say the children lived in the lake area and were cousins of each other; police say they were celebrating a birthday. Medical examiners performed autopsies on Wednesday but did not release preliminary results by evening.

The fire department says the call came in just before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. When firefighters arrived, they found a fourth floor unit at the Compass Pointe condominiums engulfed in flames. That condo complex is near the intersection of U.S. 54 at Passover Road.

Six people were trapped in the burning building when crews arrived on the scene. Firefighters were able to rescue two adults — Gary Pettry and his wife — as they were hanging out of a window of a unit on the third floor, but the four young children in a unit on the fourth floor perished; ambulances took them to a hospital but doctors were not able to revive them.

A couple and their child lived at the condo unit where the children lived. The father tried to go back to rescue the children but was repelled by the flames, smoke, and heat. The chiefs say his wife was at work.

Another nearby resident believes she saw the father as he tried to save the children and warn others about the fire.

“I looked out and that guy up there on the fourth floor, I guess he had gotten out on his deck and was going down all the decks on the railings,” said Susan Hayes. “But he couldn’t get on ours because it’s screened in, so I don’t know if he hurt himself or what, but he said, ‘Everybody get out! There’s a fire. You’ve got to get out!’ and ‘What have I caused?’

Burn patterns and the extent of the damage lead investigators to believe the fire started on the fourth floor of the building, near the unit where the children died, but they don’t know whether the area of origin was inside or outside the unit. A State Fire Marshal’s investigator is helping Osage Beach investigators; that also is a routine matter after a fatal fire in Missouri.

The chiefs think lightning is not likely the cause of the fire. The building did have propane grills on porches but the chiefs have no information that one of them may have started the fire. Police Chief Todd Davis said some residents report they heard an explosion but the chiefs don’t know if that was a propane tank or aerosol canister that exploded after the fire started; that will be explored as a possible cause.

The American Red Cross’ Disaster Services unit is helping displaced residents; only one other unit in the burned building was occupied at the time of the fire — the one occupied by the Pettrys.

The chiefs say 11 different local and state emergency response agencies helped at or near the scene of the fire.

Halley said witnesses threw rocks at the windows of the condo units in case people were sleeping in the units. The central stairwell was on fire, so witnesses could not use it to try to reach the upper units.

Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer says the building did not have a sprinkler system. It was built in the late 1970s or early 1980s; building codes at the time did not require a sprinkler system and building code updates since then did not require older buildings to add a sprinkler system.

Pettry said in an interview on Wednesday morning that he was awakened by his dog and heard a girl screaming in the condo unit above him. He also said his dog died in the fire.

“It makes my heart really hurt, really sad. I couldn’t get to the kids; I couldn’t get to my dog,” said Pettry.

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