GRAY, Ky. — A young couple and five small children participating in a sleepover died of smoke inhalation over the weekend in a house fire in this southeast Kentucky Appalachian community, the second multiple death house fire in the region in two months.
Relatives of the woman victim, Nina Asher, 22, said she was three months pregnant by her boyfriend, Jesse Disney, 25, who also perished in the Saturday morning fire.
Three of Asher's children -- boys 3 and 2 and a 10-month-old girl -- died in the fire, along with two of their friends, girls 3 and 2, who were spending the night in a sleepover.
William Gray, who said he was the father of Asher's children, described them as "the best kids in the world."
Ray Disney, uncle of Jesse Disney, called it "a terrible, terrible tragedy. They must have all been sleeping when the fire broke out."
Investigators said a neighbor called 911 to report the fire at 9:57 a.m. They said the children were found in the living room that had been converted to a sleepover bedroom of the one-story, wood-and-brick frame home. The mother's body was found inside a side door and the boyfriend's body a few feet farther into the home, they said.
Officials said the fire appeared to have started in an empty back bedroom in a corner of the house but they did not know the cause nor did they suspect foul play. They said the carpet in the bedroom had been cleaned the day before.
Gino Cima, another uncle of Ray Disney, arrived on the scene as the fire was still raging. He said he pulled the body of Asher from just inside the side door. He also retrieved the body of his nephew. He said both were lifeless.
"Hey, there's babies in there, there's babies in there!" Cima screamed to firefighters, his wife, Laura, who also was at the scene, told the Associated Press.
Disney, Asher and her children had occupied the rental home for about two months, according to Ray Disney. He said the couple was engaged to be married and were excited about Asher's pregnancy.
It was the second family house fire tragedy to strike southeast Kentucky this year. On Jan. 9, about 80 miles away in Pike County, a father and four of his children died in an early morning blaze. Officials said a space heater likely caused the fire.
Gray, the scene of Saturday's fire, is located in Knox County five miles west of Corbin, Ky., and midway between Lexington, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn.
Details for this story were provided by the Corbin, Ky., Times-Tribune and the Kentucky State Police.