RILEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Three children died early Saturday in a rural house fire that began in the chimney for a wood-burning stove.
The stepfather of two of the children suffered burns to the face and body trying to save them, said Sgt. Jerry Bassett of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.
``What can you say at a time like this?'' said David Masar, who lost two grandchildren and one great-grandchild in the blaze.
Masar said his daughter, Krystal Canup, 39, and her husband, Randall, 46, were asleep downstairs when the fire erupted at 3 a.m. He said his daughter called and said ``they couldn't get the kids out of the house.''
``Randy ran upstairs. He brought with him a bathrobe that he used as a shield, but it didn't work and he called down for a wet towel,'' Masar said. ``He still couldn't get through and while he was running, he tripped on some rubble and fell down and rolled down the stairs.''
Autopsies showed Kristen Marie Keller, 13, Tyler James Masar, 6, and Nathaniel Lee Gould, 3, died of smoke inhalation.
Krystal Canup, who Masar said was the mother of Kristen and Tyler and the grandmother of Nathaniel, was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Sheriff's Department Fire Investigator Tim O'Boyle said the fire began in the chimney that served a wood-burning stove in the home, and ignited the wood floor in the second story.
Riley Township is about 50 miles northeast of Detroit.