2 perish in massive house fire

PATTERSON, LA (WAFB) - Authorities said a massive house fire blamed on a man falling asleep while cooking claimed two lives early Wednesday morning.

"I saw the fire truck and the lights on the police car.  I'm like what's going on?" said Ruth Hamilton, the sister of one of the victims.  Hamilton lives just blocks away from the fire.  She says a neighbor woke her and drove her to house.   She had no idea it was her brother's home.  "Where's my brother and Barbara Ann?" she says she asked.  "He said that's why I wanted to bring you over here cause I didn't want to tell you.  They're still trying to find them in there."

The Patterson Police Department identified the victims as Barbara Hall, 67, and Clarence Watson, 68.  Family members say the 20-year-old special needs nephew made it out of the house safely.

"My sister called me and said my dad was gone.  I asked her where'd he go?  She said he's gone," said Antoinette Small.  She says her sister lives down the street from Watson.

The fire sparked at a home in the 500 block of Martin Luther King Avenue in Patterson around 1:30 a.m. Police Chief Patrick LaSalle said the survivor flagged down one of his officers and told him the house was on fire.

The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal said the Patterson Fire Department responded and found the home fully engulfed in flames. Once the fire was put out, the bodies of Hall (a retired St. Mary Parish teacher) and Watson (family members say he was blind) were found in a bedroom.

Fire Marshal Butch Browning said investigators determined the fire started in the kitchen area. He said the victims' grandson told authorities he fell asleep while cooking. He said he later woke up and the kitchen was on fire. That's when he ran outside and flagged down the patrol car. Browning added the police officer tried to run inside to rescue the elderly victims, but couldn't enter because of the heavy smoke.

The fire marshal's office reported the investigation revealed the man has special needs and his grandparents were supervising him.

Officials added the home was reportedly not equipped with working smoke alarms.

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