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Kentucky house fire kills seven, including five young children

March 10, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • A house fire in Gray, Ky., killed five young children and two adults, including a pregnant woman.
A house fire in Gray, Ky., killed five young children and two adults, including… (Lisa Norman-Hudson / Associated…)

A small town in southeastern Kentucky was in mourning Sunday after a weekend house fire killed seven people, including five young children and a pregnant woman.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire in Gray, a hamlet about 90 miles south of Lexington, although foul play was not initially suspected.

“Gray is extremely small, teeny-tiny, and with such a small community, something like that, everybody was in shock," Tonya Ridener, who has organized a vigil for the victims, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. "Nobody really knew how to deal with it.”

Gino Cima rushed to the house Saturday morning to save the victims, but was only able to pull out the bodies of the two adults -- his nephew and the nephew's fiancee, according to Associated Press.

"Hey, there's babies in there, there's babies in there!" Cima yelled to firefighters, Cima's wife, Laura, told AP.

Authorities have not released the victims' names, but family members have identified the home's adult residents as Jesse Disney and his girlfriend, Nina Asher, 22, who were expecting a child, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The paper reported that Asher had three children from a previous relationship who died in the fire: William, 3; Camden, 2; and Abigail, younger than 1 year old.

"Jesse, he really thought the world of them kids," Disney’s uncle, Ray Disney, told WYMT-TV. "He stayed with them, played with them, never let them out of his sight."

Shannon Disney, a sister-in-law of one of the victims, told AP that Jesse Disney's home was surrounded by homes of family members and that the neighborhood was called "Disneyland" because so much of the family lived there.

The other two children killed in the fire were staying over for the night. Ridener, a friend and neighbor of their father's in nearby Corbin, Ky., said their names were Peyton Cox, 3, and Brielle Cox, 1. Brielle had just learned to walk, Ridener said.

Ridener organized a vigil for Sunday in a local gravel pit in Knox County, where the median household income is a little over $22,000. The gravel pit was the biggest local space that she didn't need permission to use.

"Peyton and Brielle’s daddy, him and his girlfriend don’t have a lot money," Ridener said. "Yesterday I talked to the daddy, and he said, 'Oh goodness, I can’t even afford dresses for 'em' " for the funeral.

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matt.pearce@latimes.com

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