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Posted September 21, 2012 EST

Home >  US Fire / Rescue News >  State News >  Missouri
Two Die In East St. Louis Fire Despite Rescue Efforts
United States (Missouri) - Rescuers used an ax to break down a front door and neighbors threw a flower pot through a window to get inside, but their efforts couldn't save a woman and her daughter who died in a house fire early Thursday. Firefighters found the mother, who used a wheelchair, dead in the chair in a front room of the home in the 1300 block of North 37th Street, said Fire Chief Jason Blackmon. Her daughter was found on the floor and died on the way to the hospital, Blackmon said.

Authorities did not release the women's names and ages; however, a relative identified them as Lou Bertha May, 70, and Rosie May, 51.

Rosie May lived there and took care of her mother, who was fighting cancer, said Darryl Johnson of Spanish Lake, who is Rosie May's brother and Lou Bertha May's stepson.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters were called at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday to the home on North 37th Street. They found heavy smoke coming from the house and the front room engulfed in flames.

Barbara Davis, 55, lives next door. She said a neighbor boy banged on her door to wake her up, yelling that May's home was on fire. She, her boyfriend and other neighbors tried to get inside.

"We tried to open the door, but it was too hot," she said.

Firefighters arrived and tried to open it with an ax but couldn't. Davis said her son used the ax to break a lock on the front door, while other neighbors used a flower pot to break the window to Bertha May's bedroom. Others used a piece of iron to break a back window.

Davis said rescuers got halfway through Bertha May's window but retreated. "The smoke was too much," Davis said.

When firefighters brought out Bertha May's body, Davis said she was screaming at them to go back inside.

"I was telling them another lady is in the house," Davis said.

They went back inside and carried the daughter to an ambulance.

Johnson, a relative of the two women, said his sister Rosie May worked at a collection agency. She had been a drum major in high school and went to college, Tennessee State, on a music scholarship. Lou Bertha May used to work as a nurse.

"Our mom had the biggest heart in the world," Lou Bertha May's stepdaughter Lisa Bailey said. "She'd open her doors to anybody."

Johnson said he believes an electrical fire sparked the blaze because neither woman smoked cigarettes and the fire was confined to the living room and not the kitchen.

Written by St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix