SODUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A woman and five of her children died when a fire ripped through a motel near St. Joseph in the early hours of Saturday.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Office says 26-year-old Kiarre Curtis, 10-year-old Marquise Thompson, 7-year-old Gerome Randolph, 5-year-old Samuel Curtis, 4-year-old Savod Curtis and 2-year-old Avery Curtis were all killed as a result of the fire.
The cause of death for all six is believed to be smoke inhalation, officials said later Saturday. Autopsies will be conducted Sunday to confirm that.
The flames broke out around 1:45 a.m. at Cosmo Extended Stay near I-94 in Sodus Township, about 4 miles southeast of St. Joseph. The building, which is older, didn't have a fire suppression system with sprinklers.
"It just went so fast that it was like the whole building had gasoline," described Cassaundra Clements, who said she had been staying at the motel for two weeks. "Nobody could get their shoes, nobody had blankets, nobody had purses, nobody had IDs, nobody had anything. We were just sitting out here watching it burn."
Kiarre Curtis' husband Samuel Curtis, 36, and their 1-year-old child escaped. Father and child, along with two other people and four first responders, were treated for smoke inhalation at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph. All were released later Saturday.
Authorities looking into the cause of the fire said it is believed to be accidental. They said preliminary tests didn't find any evidence of an accelerant or illegal drug manufacturing.
"Looks like it might have been an electrical appliance, but that's still to be determined through forensic testing,” sheriff's office Chief Deputy Robert Boyce said.
Officials have determined the fire started in a first-floor room. The Curtis family was staying in a room on the second floor.
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