Archive for Monday, September 18, 2006

2 dead, 3 missing in fire

Grandmother only known survivor of East Lawrence blaze

September 18, 2006


A fire early Sunday destroyed an East Lawrence home, killing at least two and leaving a longtime Lawrence family grieving.

The fire at 1205 N.J. killed Charles Glover Sr., 66, and Mariyana Johnson, 13 months, one of his four grandchildren who lived with him at the home.

The three other children still are missing in the collapsed home, but crews are now looking only for their bodies, said Mark Bradford, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical chief.

Glover's wife, Learlean, survived the fire after being pulled from the flames by neighbors and emergency crews. She was conscious and in good condition Sunday night at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Bradford said.

Investigators continued to search for the fire's cause late Sunday. The fire so badly damaged the home that investigators couldn't get back in to search for victims or determine a cause because the walls of the home were unstable.

Heavy equipment began demolishing unstable parts of the home's remnants Sunday night, and Bradford said crews would work to establish a cause and find the rest of the children.

"We'll be working through the evening to recover those individuals," Bradford said.

An ATF agent examines the Glover home, looking for the cause of the fatal fire in the 1200 block of New Jersey.

An ATF agent examines the Glover home, looking for the cause of the fatal fire in the 1200 block of New Jersey.

To help search the collapsed and smoldering house, Bradford and other officials constructed a multiagency task force that included the Lawrence Police Department, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, Douglas County Sheriff's Department, the state fire marshal's office and federal agents from the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Crews worked at the scene since 911 dispatchers heard the first calls of a possible fire early Sunday.

A neighbor called dispatchers minutes before 1 a.m. Sunday, reporting flames and smoke from the two-story home.

One alarm was pulled. When police arrived minutes later, they called for a second alarm and began searching the home for people inside.

Difficult decision

But in those few frantic minutes before emergency crews arrived, neighbors had to make a decision: Wait or act. The neighbors wouldn't wait.

Directly behind the Glovers' house, Cindy Suenram spent Saturday night up later than normal in her home at 1204 N.Y.

In her upstairs bedroom, a noise rang out. It sounded, she said, like metal raking against concrete.

She looked out of a window at the back of the house she shares with husband Arch Naramore.

"I just saw flames. Big, orange flames," Suenram said.

About 12:45 a.m., Suenram called 911. A fire, she said. There were people inside.

But Suenram couldn't wait.

"She just ran out the door," Naramore said.

Running across the alley, Suenram started yelling the Glovers' names. All of the Glover family cars were parked in the driveway, she could see.

She ran back inside her home. The minutes passed like days.

"It seemed like it had been forever," Naramore said.

They called 911 again. Sirens blared through the neighborhood.

Suenram said she heard cries from inside the burning home, and she didn't yet see firefighters or police.

"I heard her hollering: 'Help me, help me,'" Suenram said.

The voice she heard belonged to Learlean Glover, coming from a downstairs bedroom. Suenram again yelled for help, she said.

Two neighbors, Paul Lampert and Jack Klinknett, heard the cries. They ran to the alley between New York and New Jersey streets.

"'Paul, we've got to get the people out of the house,'" Lampert said about Klinknett's reaction.

Lampert began kicking at the metal back door, with no luck. Searching, he found a wood beam to beat the door.

"I thought I'd use it like a battering ram," he said. "I kept battering the door with it until it wore me out. But it wouldn't budge."

Desperate, he threw something through a kitchen window in the back of the house.

Then neighbors heard the cries.

"I can't find the baby. I've got to get the baby," Suenram remembered hearing.


Afternoon press conference regarding the fire at 1205 N.J. Enlarge video

Finding victims

Around the north side of the home, they found a half-broken window. Behind it they saw Learlean, and broke out the rest of the glass.

"Smoke was just gushing out around it," Lampert said.

Lampert, Naramore, Klinknett and the first emergency crews pulled Learlean through the window.

By then, firefighters were inside the house, searching for more people. Lampert said he tried to look in through the window, but smoke overwhelmed him.

The firefighters found the baby, Mariyana Johnson, first.

They brought her outside, and seconds later discovered Charles Glover Sr.So the firefighter handed Lampert the child.

"The baby was hot," he recalled, swaying where he stood. "She was real hot."


Lawrence Fire Marshal Rich Barr discusses the fire at 1205 N.J. Enlarge video

He watched her as he walked around the house to give her to another firefighter. Soot was caked on her face and flowed from her nose, Lampert said.

Lampert then went to a side window and helped two firefighters remove Glover, he said.

"We carried him to the back alley," Lampert said.

There, Naramore and Suenram watched as emergency crews did everything they could to save Glover's life.

"They worked on Charles for a long time," Suenram said. "But he never responded."

After that, fire officials told everyone around the house to get away. The flames were getting too dangerous.

Lampert walked back over to his house and sat on his front steps. He began coughing and hacking. He'd later go to the hospital for smoke-related problems.

Offered blankets, Naramore and Suenram just went to a neighbor's house. Suddenly, everything that happened in Sunday's first hours began to sink in.


Neighbor Peter Lampert, an eye witness to the fire that claimed two lives in East Lawrence, describes the scene and the events from the previous night. Enlarge video

"It just kicks in," Suenram said. "Then there's such a helpless feeling."

Waiting, hoping

The helpless feeling didn't end there.

As the sun cracked the morning sky, friends and family of Charles Glover Sr. began to gather around the smoldering home.

"We're all just trying to take this in," Charles Glover Jr. said.

All morning and into the afternoon, Glover Jr. and the rest of the Glovers' close and extended family watched emergency crews work to get inside the collapsed home to search for the children.

"We're all just waiting," said Cory Bryan, Learlean's daughter-in-law.

Standing by the Douglas County Emergency Management van, Bryan, like so many others, had a Red Cross blanket draped over her shoulders.

"It didn't help," she said of the blanket. "I'm still shaking."

She talked to friends, telling her story of the first word of the fire.

"When I got the call, I said, 'What?' They told me again," Bryan said.

Every so often, another friend or family member would walk up the sidewalk, crying even before they saw the ruins of the home. Family members met them with tears and long embraces.

In the early afternoon, fire and police officials called the family over to explain what they had learned. It wasn't much so far. They hadn't found other bodies yet.

Other fatal fires in Douglas County

It has been at least 30 years since one fire in Douglas County killed at least five people, according to fire officials. ¢ In August 1976, five members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Baker University died in an early-morning fire cause by careless smoking. ¢ In January 1993 in Lawrence, two separate fires within a week killed five people. In mid-January at the Gaslight Village mobile home park, a 32-year-old woman set fire her to home, killing herself and her two children. Police ruled the incident a murder-suicide. Less than a week later, two teenagers died in an apartment fire in the 700 block of West 25th Street. Investigators ruled that blaze arson. ¢ Last October, three people died in a fire at the Boardwalk Apartments that prosecutors say was set intentionally. Jason Rose is accused of that early-morning Oct. 7 fire. He is due to go to trial in February.

Mayor Mike Amyx, a friend of the family, joined them. City Commissioner Sue Hack and interim City Manager David Corliss followed.

After the meeting, Amyx stuck around with the family, offering what he could: an ear to talk to, a place to blow off steam.

"You ever need anything for your family, you just let me know," Amyx told them.

Close congregation

Around the same time, the Rev. Paul Winn stood outside Praise Temple Church of God in Christ, 315 E. Seventh St., waiting to begin Sunday's services.

Just hours before, Winn said he was at the hospital with Learlean, checking on her condition after everything that happened.

"She's still trying to recover from the loss, the emotional and the physical," Winn said. "She was overrun when she got the news."

Charles Glover Sr. was considered a deacon at the church, Winn said. The longtime Kansas University groundskeeper and his family had attended the small church for years.

He held the small congregation tightly, Winn said.

"When you have a small church, it's so good to see closeness," he said.

Now, Winn and others will do what they can to help the Glover family.

Winn said he planned to meet with the family today to set up a memorial fund at the church. And at New York School, where the Glovers' older grandchildren may have attended, the school district's crisis response team will be ready to assist if needed.

On Sunday at Praise Temple, the three-member choir sang, a keyboardist and drummer played, and thoughts circled around the Glover family.

After songs and praise, Winn took the pulpit.

"We pray a prayer for sister Glover! Somebody's heart is broken."

Eyes welled in the church. Almost at once, members of the small congregation cried in their seats.

Sunday, church members - as with many close to the Glovers - searched for answers.

But as Winn said while waiting to preach: "Nobody really expects tragedy, but it still happens. It still comes."

1205 N.J.

- Managing editor for convergence Joel Mathis and 6News director Cody Howard contributed to this story.


churchmember 9 years, 2 months ago

i want to thank all that have sent out their deepest sympathy to a beloved church member as well as a loved father, husband, and grandfather. as stated before please be respectful of what is said, i have never visited this site before as was a little appalled at the bickering that went on over something little. please remember that family as well as church members are visisting the site for any more news that we have missed. and remember that in times like these prayer helps alot. again thank you to the ones who have sent out deepest sympathy to the family in the time of grief. hope to see some of you in church on sunday.

ilovemyson 4 years, 2 months ago

these was my little cousins. they were so precious i love and miss them. R.I.P mariyana johnson, mario johnson, devonte brockman, nolan vender and charles glover sr. im in one of the pictures sittin on the ground in front of the house holding my little brother with a red cross blanket wrapped around me

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm so sorry for the family. I can't even imagine. Big hug to you JS and MS.

countrygirl 9 years, 2 months ago

My deepest sympathy to the family and friends. Events like this remind us just how short our time here on earth can be. Take time out of your busy day to be nice to someone, and don't forget to hug your family. Prayers and Blessings.

eskimopieinKS 9 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Glover was the groundskeeper outside my building at KU, I remember seeing him just this summer riding a Gator around, checking sprinklers and other stuff. He always had a friendly smile and a wave for you first thing in the morning. I did not know him other than that but I am sorry for the loss of him and his family. Lawrence does care about you all!

acg 9 years, 2 months ago

This was just awful. My deepest sympathies to this family. I can't imagine, kids so young being taken away from you. God bless you all.

Ken Miller 9 years, 2 months ago

This is a terrible tragedy; strength to all family and friends involved.

Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years, 2 months ago

So sad, no words will help but know that my heart hurts for the family, my condolences to the family and friends.

Sharon Roullins 9 years, 2 months ago

First of all and foremost, I am praying for you and your family. I've never met the family but these are times when you need extra strength, to know that someone else is praying with you and for you. My daughther lost everything in the Boardwalk Apartment fire last October and although she's here to tell the story, tragedy is tragedy, but the Lord hears and heals all.

ModSquadGal 9 years, 2 months ago

This is such a horrible tragedy. I am so sorry that anyone was hurt, let alone killed - especially the children. I know the family and friends are hurting and I hope that your grief will soon pass and you can begin to rebuild your lives. Hopefully you will forget all this horribleness and have just good memories of your loved ones to see you through. We are all thinking of you.

samsnewplace 9 years, 2 months ago

My heart goes out to the family, what a horrible loss. My deepest sympathy. You will be in my prayers.

Grundoon Luna 9 years, 2 months ago

I know many of the Glover children and grandchildren. My thoughts are with you all at this time of great sadness and loss.

Katherine51 9 years, 2 months ago

I hope this will remind us all to check our smoke detectors in our homes.

And if there is one other lesson to be learned, there is a wonderful sense of community among East Lawrence neighbors of all races. I hope the City of Lawrence honors the heroic efforts of those neighbors who did all they could to help during this crisis. Peope in East Lawrence, the poorest area of town, care deeply for one another.

"Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on." --Bill Withers

Neely 9 years, 2 months ago

We would like to send our deepest sympathy to your family and friends. We could not imagine the loss your family is enduring at this time. Your family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers.

With our deepest sympathy, Shane, Neely, and McKenzie Sadler

regularjohn 9 years, 2 months ago

Walk my dog by the house almost daily. This is terrible.

My thought's and prayers are with the family.

Ceallach 9 years, 2 months ago

My prayers go out to the family, friends and neighbors. In particular for the surviving member, the grandmother, that the Lord's peace will replace any guilt or "what if" thoughts that oftime torment survivors of such tragedies. God bless them and God bless her. The Lawrence community, as a whole, has suffered a great loss.

Ceallach 9 years, 2 months ago

LJW: Did we really need such a graphic description of the baby!!!

mistygreen 9 years, 2 months ago

My thoughts and prayers go out to this family.

juris2007 9 years, 2 months ago

So far away yet so close at heart. Mrs.Glover has been a dear friend and a comfort to my mother in her time of need and I know now my mother will be there to return the prayers and support. Please know that even here in Tampa, FL prayers are going out for you and your family. It will be hard, you will question God but know that He is a keeper, comforter and most of all mender of hearts even those brokens as yours must be. Trust in the Lord.

D.Cosby Tampa, FL

planetwax 9 years, 2 months ago


My heart goes out to you. I'm so terribly sorry this happened to your family. You've always been so good to me and my daughter, Arwen. My heart feels so heavy to know you have lost so much.

With love, Janet

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