Three teenage siblings were among four people killed in a fire during Christmas celebrations at a house in the US state of Tennessee, according to media reports.
The fire killed a woman and three Indian teens from Telangana who were staying with her family through the holidays in a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, the USA Today reported.
“Kari Coudriet — of Collierville, Tennessee — as well as Sharron, 17, Joy, 15, and Aaron, 14 – teen siblings of the Naik family from India — all died in the fire,” the paper reported, citing a statement issued by the Coudriet’s church, Collierville Bible Church.
However, their relatives in Telangana identified them as Sathwika Naik, Suhan Naik and Jaya Suchith.
Mahesh Naik, a relative of the teens, said in Telangana that the siblings’ father Srinivas Naik, a resident of Gurrapu Thanda in the Nalgonda district, has rushed to the US.
“The three children were studying in the USA. My uncle (Srinivas Naik) is a church pastor and runs a school here. We got the news about the disaster on Monday that there was a fire accident in the house in which they attended the Christmas party,” Naik said.
“A fire started around 11 o’clock pm at the Coudriet home (on December 23). The Coudriet family was hosting, housing, and celebrating Christmas with three teenagers attending an Academy here in the States. The Naik family are missionaries in India that our church supports,” the Collierville Bible Church said.
The Coudriets were hosting the Naik family for the holidays.
Kari’s husband Danny and their son Cole were able to make it out of the home. Both are expected to survive, the paper said.
“At this time, we are asking for privacy and discretion regarding the Missionary children. The family is in route from India and many of the details of the events are still being communicated to the family, the church said.
The Indian teens were studying at the French Camp Academy in Mississippi.
The academy said it was “deeply saddened by the tragic event” in Collierville. “We are fervently praying for the families involved,” it added.
Keith Potts, who has known the Coudriet family for about four years, said the Naik teens were attending school in Mississippi. When the school closed for winter break, the students could not go home to India so the Coudriets invited them to stay in their home.
Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner said the tragedy is still under investigation.
“They’re still looking at what the cause of it (fire) was,” he said. “I was told when they arrived they did not hear any smoke alarms going off… so you just never know.”
Collierville Fire Chief Mark King said the first floor of the house had no working smoke detectors. The second floor, which is where all four rooms were, only had one smoke detector that went off.
“It was chaotic The house went up really, really fast,” localmemphis.com quoted a neighbour as saying.
“It was just frantic trying to figure out how many people were in the house; I knew there were multiple kids there,” Symons said.
As he tried to assist before fire trucks arrived, Symons saw two people make it out: 13-year-old Cole – who jumped out of a window — and his father, Danny.
“He was covered head to toe in black,” Symons was quoted by the website as saying.