A Duke University electrician, his son and his girlfriend died Sunday morning in a house fire in this quiet, rural Caswell County community, the two adults each leaving behind a young daughter and bewildered, grieving family members. A young girl, unrelated to either adult and apparently the friend of at least one of the surviving teen girls, was an overnight visitor at the house and also survived.
Firefighters rushed to the blaze at 6205 N.C. 119 in Leasburg just after 3 a.m. Sunday where they found a collapsed house completely engulfed in flames.
Braint Rimmer, 37, his 33-year-old girlfriend and Rimmer's 14-year-old son, Austin, a Person High School student, died in the fire.
The three teen girls who had been asleep in the house managed to escape just in time.
Rimmer's daughter, Victoria Rimmer, 13, Rimmer's girlfriend's daughter and the unrelated girl, both 14, were awakened by smoke Sunday and escaped, Caswell County Fire Marshall Vernon Massengill said.
Screaming and yelling about the fire, they ran out the back of the house and to the nearest neighbor for help.
"These girls, who in my opinion are heroic in their efforts, yelled and yelled for [Rimmer and the others] to get out of the house," Massengill said. "They ran approximately three-quarters of a mile up a gravel road barefooted to the nearest neighbor's house to report this."
Rimmer and his girlfriend awakened and attempted to save Austin Rimmer. Instead, all three were trapped in the inferno and died.
When Leasburg firefighters arrived at 3:10 a.m., the house, built partly on stilts, had already collapsed. About 50 firefighters from the Leasburg, Semora, Yanceyville and Prospect Hill departments put the fire out at about 8 a.m.
As of Monday, officials had not determined the cause of the fire. The house was destroyed and the fire damaged 10 vehicles on the property. The three girls had minor injuries.
"We have not had a fatality-related fire like this in this county in a long time," Massengill said.
Remains of the victims were sent to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill, Massengill said, where dental records will positively identify them. Massengill declined to name the victims on Monday.
Rimmer's relatives in Caswell and Person counties could not identity his girlfriend or her daughter on Monday. The identity of the third surviving teen girl was also unknown.
Rimmer's relatives said they are devastated.
"It takes time to realize the full capacity of things, and what happened. That's for all of us," said Candy Poole, a close cousin of Rimmer's.
Rimmer and his ex-wife divorced several years ago and shared custody of their children. Described by relatives as a helpful and devoted family man, he had started a new job this year as an electrician with Duke University.
"It was the first shift, and he was very tickled about that. He was going to have more time with [the kids]," Poole said.
Rimmer is survived by his parents and a sister. Victoria Rimmer is staying with her mother in Person County, family members said.
Rimmer's son, Austin, had just started his freshman year at Person High School. He would have turned 15 this month.
"This took with it a lot of hopes and dreams we had," Poole said.
Written by The Herald-Sun
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