Parents, two daughters killed in Slidell fire
SLIDELL, La. (WVUE) - Four family members, including two children, died early Wednesday (Jan. 19) when a fire raged through a house in Slidell’s Eden Isles subdivision that was equipped with one inoperative smoke detector, fire officials said.
“This was a tragic, tragic fire,” said Chris Kaufmann, Chief of St. Tammany Fire Prevention District No. 1. “We have never lost a family like this in a residential house fire in my 34 years in Slidell. ... This is just not something that is normal for firefighters to deal with.”
Officials said the fire claimed the lives of four of five family members, including children just 5 and 10 years old. The family’s fifth member -- a teenage sibling who was staying overnight in his mother’s residence on the south shore -- was located and notified that the rest of his family had perished, after firefighters braved flames and heavy smoke to confirm he was not in the house.
The parish coroner, Dr. Charles Preston, identified the victims as Phoenix Lousteau, 33; her husband Stephen Lousteau, 40; and their daughters Payton Lousteau, 5, and Mackenzie Lousteau, 10. Dr. Preston will conduct autopsies on the victims, but he says there were no signs of burns on the bodies and believes all four died from smoke inhalation.
Kaufmann said neighbors were the first to report the fire after two propane tanks exploded on the consumed house’s back porch around 1:30 a.m. The fire chief and St. Tammany Parish coroner Dr. Charles Preston said early indications were that the family members likely died of smoke inhalation that might have been prevented had the residence been equipped with working smoke detectors in each bedroom.
“We gave the family the best chance we could give them” after 16 units bearing 33 firefighters arrived to the fully involved house, Kaufmann said. “But we were playing catch-up. ... We don’t know how long the fire had been burning until the neighbor called us.”
The fire was termed “accidental” by Kaufmann, who did not elaborate. But its exact cause was being investigated by the St. Tammany department, as well as by investigators from the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s office, the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“It is a tragic, sad day in Slidell,” St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith said.
Neighbors Kenny and Carol Lanata said they did all they could.
“I ran around and started beating on the steel door,” Kenny said. “[Carol] had already called 911.”
Kaufmann said his firefighters were so shaken by the incident, the department planned to arrange counseling for any personnel who need help processing the grief from the scene.
“There is no question that working smoke detectors would give a family a chance to wake up and get out,” Kaufmann said. “But this family didn’t have a chance.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is assisting in the investigation. The Operation Save-A-Life program partners with local fire departments to install smoke alarms for free for families in need.
Officials say to schedule the installation of a smoke detector through the program, you can contact your local fire department.
To sign up online to have one installed, CLICK HERE.
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