Three Killed in Pennsylvania House Fire

The fire that claimed the lives of two children and a man early Thursday morning has been ruled accidental.


WILKES-BARRE, Penn.-- The fire that claimed the lives of two children and a man early Thursday morning on South Franklin Street has been ruled accidental, Fire Chief Jacob Lisman said.

"The firefighters are extremely distraught," Lisman said. "They were upset they were not able to make a successful rescue."

The mother of the two children who died was outside screaming hysterically before firefighters frantically broke the windows and pulled out their bodies, an eyewitness said.

South Franklin Street resident Frank Monda watched as firefighters climbed a ladder, broke the windows and carried out 5-year-old Angel Torres and 3-year-old Alia Van Pelt. Alia's father, Victor Van Pelt, 26, also died in the fire.

"The mother was carrying on and screaming and yelling, 'My kids, my kids'" said Monda, who was woken up by the ambulances and fire engines. "When they pulled the bodies out, there was no fire and no smoke. They broke the windows and they got the little 5-year-old boy out first. He was already lifeless. The mother threw herself down. It was sad."

State police Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Jarocha and Wilkes Barre Fire Inspector William Sharksnas are still at the six-unit apartment building investigating the cause of the fire that claimed the lives of two children and the man.

Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Tim Doherty and Wilkes-Barre Building Inspector Frank Kratz were also were on the scene, which was blocked off with police tape.

Neighbors said 12 people lived in the six apartments. South Franklin Street resident William Bailey also was awoken by the fire that started just before 3 a.m. He ran to the scene wearing no shoes. "From what I can see this morning, it was pretty bad," Bailey said. "I didn't see a lot of flames, but I saw a lot of smoke."

Copyright The Citizens Voice 2008.

Republished with permission of The Citizens Voice.