Three Boys Killed in Apartment Fire in Rural Indiana

MILROY, Ind. (AP) -- The mother of two of the six young children trapped in a deadly apartment fire was at a neighbor's home taking a shower when the blaze broke out, the neighbor said.

The fire early Wednesday killed three boys - two of them 2 years old and one age 6 - and left the other three hospitalized from burns or smoke inhalation, relatives said. Electrical space heaters might have been used in the apartment above the Our Place Pizza Parlor, but fire investigators said they had not determined what started the fire.

Bridget Quinlan, 27, had left the apartment where her two sons and four of their cousins were sleeping for a hot shower after having run out of heating fuel a week earlier at her apartment. As she returned, she ran into the burning apartment to help her sister's boyfriend, who had been watching the children, in the rescue attempt.

Chuck Dyer, who lives in the house where Quinlan was showering, said he helped in the rescue after the boyfriend, Russell Messer, had already rescued some of the youngsters.

''When we went through the back door, we heard one of the kids crying,'' Dyer said. ''We got through the hallway, grabbed him and pulled him out. But there was no way to get to the rest of them. We tried.''

The three children presumed dead were Bridget Quinlan's son, Christian Rankin, 2, and his cousins, Jacob Quinlan, 6, and Josh Quinlan, 2. The cousins are the sons of Bridget Quinlan's sister Nicole, who was not at the apartment at the time of the fire. Jacob and Josh had spent the night but did not live there.

Bridget Quinlan and the other adults rescued both of the children of Stephanie Quinlan, who is also Bridget Quinlan's sister. She was in Florida at the time of the fire, and Messer, 23, is her boyfriend, said Shawn Longerich, of the People's Burn Foundation of Indianapolis, a group that assists the victims of fires.

Bridget Quinlan was listed in good condition Thursday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, while her other son, Zachary Ian Rankin, 3, remained in critical condition Thursday at Riley Hospital for Children.

Stephanie Quinlan's children, Caleb Quinlan, 3, and 5-month-old Allison Quinlan, were taken to Methodist Hospital, but information on their conditions was not immediately available on Thursday. Messer was treated and released.

Some family members and others raised concerns Wednesday about the building.

''I know from speaking to the family there had been some complaints about the electrical,'' said Longerich, of the People's Burn Foundation. ''Right now they are lashing out at anything they can recall.''

It took some 50 firefighters from seven departments more than an hour to bring the blaze under control in the Rush County town some 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis. The fire gutted the top floor of the two-story brick building, with the roof burned off the back half to expose several rooms where nearly everything was burned black.

State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson said a quick response by firefighters prevented the entire block of attached buildings from being destroyed.

''There was so much fire and so much heat that it had the potential to start raining down embers,'' Johnson said.