Two little girls stuck inside a trailer engulfed in flames died of smoke inhalation, according to autopsy reports.
Five-year-old Savannah Daniels and her 3-year-old sister, Bailey, died when they became trapped inside a burning trailer in the Seges Mobile Home Park on Old Highway 54. Their bodies were found under debris in a hallway.
The state fire marshal's office says the blaze began around 8 a.m. Thursday in a box of kindling near a fireplace.
The home was already fully engulfed in flames when firefighters from half a dozen companies arrived Thursday. They worked frantically in frigid temperatures to beat down the flames and rescue the children but were unable to reach them in time.
Tina Daniels, the mother of Bailey and Savannah Daniels, tried to save her little girls - but her sister, Hollie Kirbbs, said she lost sight of them.
"She was yelling, ya know, 'Come out the back door! Come out the back door!," said Kirbbs. "And they kept crying, 'Mommy, we can't see you, we can't see you!' And the smoke was so thick she couldn't get back in."
Kirbbs received a call from the girls' grandmother saying there was a fire and the two girls were still inside. She said their beloved dog Zoe stayed inside with Bailey and Savannah.
"Zoe could've got out," Kirbbs said. "She stayed because of the girls were there. So the dog was also gone."
One fireman, holding back tears, said, "We did all we could, we just couldn't get to them." Holts Summit Fire Chief Scott Brooks echoed that, saying fire rescue did everything possible to save the two girls.
"They're parents themselves," Brooks said about the firefighters. "They understand and they did try to make an effort...It's just unfortunate that it appears to me that, even at the time we got the call and we were on the scene, that it may have been too late."
Fire crews had to hold back the father, Bobby Daniels from going inside. Police had to block off the scene as multiple trucks battled the blaze. Neighbors mourned as they watched the flames engulf the home that the took the two young lives.
"One of the fire guys has some brusing on his face from my brother-in-law," said Kribbs. "But those were his little girls."
Mobile homes are vulnerable to fires, according to the fire chief, because of their light structures and closed-in spaces. But he said, in this case, there was plenty of water - it was sub-zero temperatures that put a freeze on fighting the fire.
"Some of the equipment and water pumps freezed," said Brooks. Oxygen tanks froze, making it impossible for fire crews to go inside the heavy smoke. "Our feelings are for the family," he said.
Officials with the Jefferson City School District say Savannah Daniels was a kindergarten student at Callaway Hills Elementary School. School administrators there took steps to provide grief counseling.
The Daniels' also had a 14-year-old son, who was already at school when the fire happened. The Red Cross found the family a place to stay Thursday night and trust funds have already been set up for the Daniels family. One is at Central Bank, the other at Mid-America Bank.
"This is devestating," Kirbbs said crying. "They were just a joy. They were incredible. They were full of life and wanted to learn and we're gonna miss them so much."