Four Killed in Kentucky House Fire

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A fire apparently sparked by a cigarette swept through a home in Lebanon Junction early Friday, killing a 3-year-old girl, her parents and her great-grandmother, authorities said.

The fire, which broke out before 4 a.m. EDT, apparently started when 74-year-old Jo Ann Ice fell asleep in a recliner while smoking in her den, Bullitt County Coroner Tommy Kappel said.

A smoke detector in the house did not have any batteries, he said.

Autopsies revealed all four died of smoke inhalation, he said.

Lebanon Junction is about 35 miles south of Louisville.

Besides Ice, the victims included her grandson, 31-year-old Leslie Etherton, his wife, 24-year-old Elizabeth Etherton, and the couple's child, Skylar, who turned 3 on Monday, Kappel said.

The fire was reported by a neighbor at 3:48 a.m., Kentucky State Police said. Firefighters were able to pull Leslie Etherton and his daughter from the house before it was fully engulfed, the coroner said. The other two were burned beyond recognition, he said.

The fire cast a pall among emergency workers and county officials in Bullitt County.

Ice worked for years in the Bullitt County circuit court clerk's office. Her daughter, Bridgett Etherton, is a paramedic for the county EMS.

Kappel said he knew Ice for many years.

``She was a hoot,'' he said. ``Jo Ann would get you going, she was a very humorous gal. She was very well liked.''

Kappel said he had received a card on Thursday from Bridgett Etherton expressing sympathy over the recent death of his mother.

Doris Cornell said she got to know Ice when both worked in the courthouse in Shepherdsville. Cornell was county treasurer at the time, but became circuit court clerk after Ice retired.

``It just doesn't seem real,'' Cornell said. ``I know it is, but you don't want to accept it.''

Flames had spread through the brick home before firefighters from Lebanon Junction and Boston arrived.

Leslie Etherton was found by firefighters in a hallway, a couple of steps from his daughter's bedroom, Kappel said.

``He was trying to get the baby, I think,'' he said.

Skylar was out of her bed near her closed door, the coroner said.

The girl's mother was found face down in a hallway entrance outside the den, he said. She was trying to get away from the fire, he said.

Ice was found in the recliner in her den.

No one else was in the house at the time, authorities said.

The blaze was being investigated by the state fire marshal's office and state police arson investigators.