Father, young son badly burned in Dyersburg house fire

Neighbors said Delmer McNeil, 31, and his son Tripp, 5, were badly burned in the blaze.
Neighbors said Delmer McNeil, 31, and his son Tripp, 5, were badly burned in the blaze.
Monday, very little remained of the McNeils' home.
Monday, very little remained of the McNeils' home.

(WMC-TV) - A Dyer County man and his young son are fighting for their lives after a grilling accident sparked a fire Sunday that destroyed their house.

Neighbors said Delmer McNeil, 31, and his son Tripp, 5, were badly burned in the blaze.

"They were grilling right there in their carport and when they were trying to light it, they kept turning the gas up," said April Richardson, a neighbor. "When it finally lit, it spread up to the side and it started quick."

McNeil and his son were quickly taken to local hospitals. According to family members, they suffered burns to approximately 70 percent of their bodies.  Delmer McNeil was taken to The MED for treatment, while his son was transported to Shriner's Hospital in Cincinnati.

"It's tough," said Colleen Jamison, a family member. "It just shows how your life can change, just like that."

For a short time, Richardson worried strong winds would help the fire spread to her home.

"I was scared, because I was here by myself," she said.

Monday, very little remained of the McNeils' home, which was located just outside Dyersburg in the Finley community. But family members were more concerned about the long recovery both victims will face.

"Just knowing the pain they're in," Jamison said. "How horrible it is to have just the smallest burn and for your whole body to be burned, and for little Tripp I know he's afraid of fire."

Jamison hoped the entire community would come together to support the victims.

"Anybody that can pray is certainly appreciated, and we'll pray," she said.

Late Monday evening, Kenneth Hankins was one of almost 200 people who gathered for a candle light vigil in the yard next to the McNeil's burned out house.

"It's really bad," he said. "You never expect it, and when it does happen you try to get in there and help as best you can."

Hannah McNeil - Delmer's wife and Tripp's mother - listened to the vigil by phone as she stayed with her son in Ohio.

"I just want to tell everyone of you thank you," she said.

A special fund has been established to help the McNeils.  You can contribute to the Delmer McNeil, Jr. Family Fund at any First Citizens National Bank.  Call 731-286-5064 for more information.

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