7 dead, 3 injured in Saturday morning house fire - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

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7 dead, 3 injured in Saturday morning house fire

(Image courtesy Dwayne Jones) (Image courtesy Dwayne Jones)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Seven family members died early Saturday morning after a fire broke out in a home at 860 Baltimore in Orange Mound. Three other family members remain hospitalized.

The community has built a makeshift sidewalk memorial overflowing with teddy bears to honor the five children, teenager and mother who lost their lives.

The adult victim has been identitifed as 38-year-old Melissa Poole, a stay-at-home. Of her eight children, four perished in the fire, two daughters escaped unharmed, and two sons are hospitalized. A visiting niece and nephew also died in the fire.

"My sister was a great girl," said Poole's twin sister Melinda Poole. "She was sweet as she can be."

Family members added that Poole was always willing to take anyone in and help them in any way she could.

"She was everybody's mom, she was everbody's cousin, she was everybody's aunt," said cousin Alicia Bradley. "She was a loving and caring person."

Friends and neighbors said tragedy couldn't have struck a nicer family, and that Poole was a wonderful mother whose door was always open to the entire community.

"Sweet, all of them...sweet, passionate, open their doors for all the kids around here," said Deon Shields, Poole's brother. "Everybody went over to see them."

Firefighters said Poole's eldest son, Dion, lost his life while trying to rescue other family members from the fire. The 18-year-old escaped unharmed and returned to rescue the others, but didn't make it out a second time.

"Everybody loved Dion. Little Dion was the pick of the family," said Bradley.

When word spread about the fire, Dion's friends immediately ran over to help, only to realize it was too late.

Said friend Marqual Rivers, "He had a chance to get away, but his family members was in there. He came back to save them and he got stuck."

When the first fire crews arrived around 5:45 a.m., heavy smoke and flames were coming from the rear of the two-story wood-frame house. It took 43 fire personnel nearly 20 minutes to bring the blaze under control. No firefighters were injured in the blaze.

"I was standing on the porch over here and could actually feel the heat on my face," said neighbor Patrick Lewis.

Officials have yet to determined what sparked the fire, or whether or not the home had a working smoke detector. The medical examiner is working to determine if the victims died from smoke inhalation, or were simply burned by the flames.

All of the bodies were found in the back of the house on the first floor. It's not clear if the victims were trying to escape.

Three minors were all transported to area hospitals with second degree burns to the face and hands. 11-year-old De'Andre Poole is listed in fair condition at LeBonheur Children's Medical Center; 16-year-old Darius Pool, a Melrose High School senior and football player, is listed in fair condition at The Med; and a 17-year-old girl, identified as Dion Poole's girlfriend who is pregnant with their child, is listed in good condition at The Med.

Justin Terry, Darius Poole's football coach, visited the boy at The Med Saturday.

"He said 'My mom and my family's gone coach, they're gone. I don't have anybody,'" said Terry. "I said 'Yes, you do have somebody'".

Terry, also a teacher at Melrose, taught Darius's brother, Dion. "Great students, awesome students...I enjoyed working with those guys," he said. "Dion did not play any football, but an awesome student in the classroom and inside the school."

Terry said Darius is talking, and knows he has a long road of physical and emotional recovery ahead. "I told him, 'Son, God has something in store for you and your brother (De'Andre) to survive and help your family out. There's something in store for you right away," he said.

Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said in a statement that he has arranged for grief counselors to be available Monday morning at Melrose, Fairview Middle and Hanley Elementary schools.

"The entire Memphis City Schools family is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of four of our children today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this very difficult time," said Cash.

Stay with Action News 5 and WMCTV.com for updates on this story.

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