GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- An early morning house fire killed a 71-year-old man and two of his young grandchildren on Sunday, authorities said.
Neighbors said Harold Ewell and his wife had recently moved into the house in Ayden and were being visited by their 7-year-old granddaughter, Ashleigh Ewell, and 3-year-old grandson, Tucker Ewell, who lived with their parents in the area.
Ewell's wife, whose name was not released, suffered smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire was being investigated, though arson was not believed to be involved.
The woman's cries alerted neighbors shortly before 5 a.m. that the house was ablaze.
Shirley Dennis, asleep in her home next door, said she heard what she first thought was an animal whining, then a woman calling for help. She woke her husband, who rushed outside while she telephoned for help.
Neighbors rescued the woman and firefighters were on the scene in minutes, but too late to save other the three.
``It's just one of those things you always second guess-yourself. Could you done something different? Could we have done something more? But even if we had gotten there minutes earlier it wouldn't have made any difference,'' Ayden fire department spokesman Donald Skinner said.
Skinner, one of the first on the scene, said the back corner of the house was heavily ablaze when he arrived, and flames had gotten into the attic and begun to spread.