Osage Beach Fire Protection District copes with loss, tragedy

3 years 1 month 6 days ago Saturday, August 15 2015 Aug 15, 2015 Saturday, August 15, 2015 11:48:00 PM CDT August 15, 2015 in News
By: Andrea Gonzales, KOMU 8 Reporter

OSAGE BEACH - The firefighters at Osage Beach Fire Protection District are still coping with not being able to save the lives of four young children in a condominium fire in early August. 

Two-year-old Kairi Helton, 2-year-old Zeza Bradshaw, 4-year-old Lee Ann Hendrickson and 5-year-old Joshua Hendrickson died in the fire, which started at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, August 5. Firefighters said 5-year-old Joshua Hendrickson was a resident of the condo, and the three other children were his cousins visiting for a birthday.

Osage Beach Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer said by the end of the evening, there were around 60 first responders at the Compass Pointe condominium on Passover Road. He said fire departments from as far away as Lebanon came to help put out the fire. 

A woman who watched the whole night unfold, Emilee Paton, recorded video of the fire with her cell phone. In the video, she is saying, "This is terrible. This makes me sick."

"The firefighters over here on the ladder, I saw them one by one pulling the kids out just holding them over their shoulder," Paton said. "Their arms just -- lifeless."

Dourhauer said as soon as firefighters found out there might have been four children on the fourth floor, the fire was too hot for firefighters to enter. He said they doused the flames with water, were finally able to enter and found four young children. He said they were pulled out of the condo and taken to Lake Regional Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

"We keep trying to reassure them they were correct," Dorhauer said. "What they did was the best they can do. and really nothing they could have done different would have changed the outcome. It's still very difficult for someone in our profession to accept that."

Dorhauer said one way his department has tried to cope with the situation is by meeting with families effected and debriefing among themselves.

"We lean on each other quite heavily," Dorhauer said. "We talk a lot to each other. Almost like a family because we are a family. We just watch out for each other."

He said he encourages his staff not to change their habits or hobbies after tragic incidents.

"We look for little signs and clues if someone is struggling more than the next person and we try to intervene to make sure they are okay, they are processing what happened and they are healing," Dorhauer said.

If a first responder doesn't cope with tragedy correctly, Dorhauer said it could be fatal.

"It's just a very unique individual who that can see day in and day out what these guys see and realize through all of this the good they do -- even in times it doesn't seem like our actions helped.

The day after the fire was put out, Paton stopped by to see the items people in the area had left as a small memorial for the children. A large rock beside the condo was covered in balloons, flowers and stuffed animals.

"I like it when the community comes together," Paton said.

After receiving hundreds of messages, phone calls and emails showing support, Dorhauer said, "I just want to thank the community."

The Osage Beach Fire Protection District said the cause of a condo fire that killed four children in Osage Beach could not be determined.

Authorities said the building was constructed in the 1970's, before current codes were in place, meaning there was no sprinkler system in the condo.

KOMU 8 News reached out to family members, but they did not wish to comment at the time of this report.

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