By Bobby Bordelon
At least five deaths have been confirmed in Greenbrier County after emergency responders fought a house fire on Flynn Creek Road near Williamsburg on Tuesday, December 8.
“Four victims who suffered fatal injuries were located and removed from within the residence, and another fatal victim was located outside of the home,” Greenbrier County Sheriff Bruce Sloan announced in a press release on Wednesday, Dec. 9. “Crews on the scene continue to search for a possible sixth victim from within the interior of the structure. All of the victims will be transported to the West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s office for examination.”
The fire consumed the entire home and was confirmed by the Sheriff’s department to not be related to the fire in Asbury earlier that day.
“Investigators from the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived on scene to conduct their investigation into the origin of the fire, which totally destroyed the home.”
Fire Departments from Clintonville, Frankford, Williamsburg, Lewisburg, Ronceverte, Tri-County, Smoot, Rainelle, and Fairlea, as well as Fairlea Ambulance Service and the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the scene. Corporal S. W. Hudnall, of the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office, is the lead investigator.
Although not independently confirmed by the sheriff’s office or Mountain Messenger as being related to the fires, Frankford Elementary School Principal Linda King released a letter encouraging students who are having a hard time after the passing of three of their classmates to seek help.
King’s statement was released in a mass email to parents to notify them of the incident and also named three of the children involved in the tragedy. Initial reports by the Mountain Messenger included the whole letter, but these names have been omitted in subsequent coverage. King stated in a later interview that she hoped the content of the letter would not be distributed beyond parents to the community, but would allow parents to have a difficult conversation with their children about the event before returning to school.
“Our entire school family has been affected by this news,” wrote King. “We encourage you to be especially sensitive and prepared to offer support to your child during this time. We encourage you to have your child to express his or her own feelings and to listen attentively. You may see behavior changes, loss of concentration, physical complaints, or regression.”
King emphasized that students who may be having trouble with the news reach out to the school counselors or staff, including Elizabeth Richmond (firstname.lastname@example.org) and supporting counselor with Rainelle Medical Center Christina Barnett (email@example.com).
In his COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Jim Justice also expressed his sadness for those hurt in the fire and several other tragic events across the state, such as record COVID-19 deaths and a manufacturing plant explosion.
“Word came that we had a terrible tragedy in the Williamsburg area in Greenbrier County,” Justice said. “There was a fire. There were people that were supposedly trapped in the fire. … The investigation is continuing as evidence at the scene is being processed. Specific details, including the manner and cause of death will not be released until confirmed by the medical examiner. That’s tough stuff.”