LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An engaged couple and five children killed in a weekend house fire in southern Kentucky died from smoke inhalation, investigators said Tuesday as they worked to determine the cause of the blaze.
Trooper Shane Jacobs said those who died in the blaze Saturday in the community of Gray were 27-year-old Jesse Disney; his fiancée, 22-year-old Nina Asher; her three children, 3-year-old William Gray Jr., 2-year-old Camden Gray and 8-month-old Abigail Gray; and family friends who were staying over, 2-year-old Paiten Cox and 2-year-old Brielle Cox.
Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the fire and have said it could take some time before the cause is determined. Jacobs said autopsies were done Monday and that neither arson nor foul play were suspected.
The blaze shook the rural community of Gray in the foothills of Appalachia near the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Tennessee and Virginia state lines.
At the J&G Market convenience store, just up the road from the home, a large empty bubble-gum bucket bore a sign seeking donations to help offset the funeral costs. And Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in Corbin planned to donate services to the family of the Cox children.
Funerals are scheduled for Disney and the Cox sisters on Thursday. Arrangements for Asher and the other children were pending Tuesday.
Knox County Magistrate Giulio Cima, who represents the Gray area, said the two visiting children were bathed and fed a hot meal on Friday night.
“There’s a lot of things that happen in this world that you can’t answer for,” Cima said. “This is going to be bad for that family for a long time.”
A phone number could not be immediately located for the Cox family.
Cima’s brother, Gino, is Jesse Disney’s uncle. Gino Cima tried to rescue the adults and children from the fire, but was unsuccessful.
“He’s lucky he got in and got out,” Giulio Cima said.
The two firefighters who pulled the children from the charred house sat near a tree in the front yard afterward, looking despondent, Giulio Cima said.
“This right here is probably the worst thing that happened in this county in years,” Cima said. “But we’re going to get through it.”
On Monday, charred photos, books, children’s art, broken glass and pieces of the collapsed roof littered the lawn outside the house near Disney’s relatives. Another of Disney’s uncles, Bobby James Disney, picked through the remains after speaking with arson investigators.
“It’s heartbreaking, losing those kids like that,” Bobby James Disney said. “Those kids are helpless.”
The area contains the homes of so many family members that it’s nicknamed “Disneyland.”