Five Kids Dead as Fire Destroys Amish Home in Pa.

PULASKI, Pa. (AP) -- A wood- and coal-burning furnace started a fire that destroyed an Amish family's wood-frame home and killed five children sleeping inside, authorities said Wednesday.

Rudy and Lizzie Wengerd escaped into the bitter cold with their four other children Tuesday night. A family friend said one of the boys leaped from the second floor and then caught his younger brother; the two other children climbed down a ladder put up by their father before the fire became too intense for a rescue.

The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived and a second-story room filled with children crashed into the basement, authorities said.

Killed were Katie, 14; Levi, 12; Neil, 11; John, 4; and Jonathon, 2, police said. The coroner said all died of smoke inhalation.

Authorities ruled the fire an accident involving the furnace. Of the home, only a wall and a brick chimney remained standing.

``These people lost everything they had,'' said Dave Ryder, 59, owner of a diner and motel who knows the family.

Neighbors said the home was built by the Amish about 30 years ago, but had been converted into an ``English,'' or modern, house. They said the Wengerds arrived in August and were removing some modern amenities for a more traditional Amish lifestyle.

The parents lived simply and supported their children with odd jobs at a livestock auction house and selling baked goods at flea markets. Neighbors said the family planned to take up farming.

Moses Miller, 26, owner of a local Amish supply store and Rudy Wengerd's cousin, said it wasn't the lost possessions that worried him.

``I'm sure materially, financially, it won't be a problem. The problem will be the children,'' Miller said.

Don Shelenberger, 71, a retired machinist, visited the family Wednesday at the home of Lizzie Wengerd's mother.

``They huddled together. They are there to comfort one another. I had never seen a grief-stricken house like that,'' Shelenberger said.

State police did not release details on the surviving children.

Family friend Bob Glenn, 57, said the Wengerds' oldest son, Gideon, about 15, injured his foot when he jumped out of the second-floor room where the children slept. But he was able to catch his younger brother, Danny, as Rudy Wengerd put a ladder up to a second-floor window and rescued two children before fire pushed them back.

A funeral was scheduled for Saturday. Glenn said volunteers planned to start rebuilding the house Monday.

Help has already started to arrive in this farming community about 55 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, near the Ohio line. Shelenberger said the Wengerds were receiving donations, including food, furniture, jars of money and clothing.

Ryder put a jar by the register in Ryder's Restaurant to collect donations for the family, though he didn't think it would be needed.

``The Amish take care of their own. You may come back in a week and see a new house where you're standing,'' he said.

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