Five children die in mobile home fire in south Texas

Five children killed in early morning mobile home fire in Texas; mother and father escape with young son

Five children were killed Tuesday in an early-morning fire that ripped through a mobile home in southern Texas, officials said.

Firefighters in Edna, Texas, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, responded to a call reporting the blaze shortly after 5 a.m. local time, according to Capt. Nick Strauss of the Edna Fire Department.

When they arrived, he said, the fire had already engulfed the mobile home and bystanders told rescuers there might still be five children in the back of the home.

A partial roof collapse and an unstable floor made rescue attempts impossible, Strauss said, and firefighters were forced to go into "defensive mode" to fight the fire.

The mother and father of the children were able to escape the home with a small child, fire officials said, and were taken to a local hospital.

Sarah Scott, a spokeswoman with the medical examiner’s office in Travis County, which provides some government services for Jackson County, where Edna is located, confirmed that officials there had reported five deaths as a result of the fire.

The children's mother, identified by Jackson County Sheriff's Department officials as 32-year-old Annabel Ortiz, was transported to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas and was listed in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Shannon Spree told The Times. The father, 30-year-old Johnny Hernandez Jr., and the couple's surviving young son, Johnny Hernandez III, did not require medical attention, Sheriff A.J. Louderback said in an email.

The state fire marshal's office is assisting local authorities with the investigation, which is ongoing, Strauss said. Photos of the scene taken by a local TV news station showed a burned-out L-shaped shell of the home and the blackened remains of a vehicle.

Officials with the Edna Independent School District confirmed the names of the children as Noah Ortiz, who was in the 10th grade; Nicholas Ortiz, in the eighth grade; Julian Ortiz, a sixth-grader; Ariana Hernandez, first grade, and Liliana Hernandez, who was in kindergarten.

“All of them were just popular, great kids,” Supt. Robert O’Connor told The Times. “It’s devastating anytime you lose a child ... but to lose five at a one time, that is unbelievable.”

O’Connor said the incident has sent the town of 5,500 people reeling. “We’re a small time, and everybody’s kind of like a family,” he said. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Edna ISD family goes out to the family in this terrible tragedy. ... Words cannot express the tremendous loss.”

The high school has canceled its basketball games, scheduled for Tuesday evening, and has brought in grief counselors at all three of the district's campuses, school officials said.

Noah Ortiz was a sophomore at Edna High School and a starter on the school’s football team. The team and other school community members are planning a fundraiser for the family, O’Connor said.

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