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Fire that killed 9 started accidentally, Ky. officials say

Investigators worked at the scene of a deadly house fire in Kentucky on Thursday. Two family members survived.
Investigators worked at the scene of a deadly house fire in Kentucky on Thursday. Two family members survived.Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Eight children and their mother were killed in an early-morning house fire in western Kentucky on Thursday, with only the injured father and an 11-year-old girl escaping, Kentucky State Police said.

Trooper Stu Recke said eight of the people were found in a master bedroom while the ninth person was found 10 to 15 feet away. Recke said the fire started accidentally with combustible material against an electric heater in a bedroom.

Recke identified those killed as LaRae ‘‘Nikki’’ Watson, 35, and her children Madison, 15; Kaitlyn, 14; Morgan, 13; Emily, 9; Samuel, 8; Raegan, 6; and 4-year-old twins Mark and Nathaniel.

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Recke said the father, Chad Watson, 36, and 11-year-old Kylie Watson, were at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Chad Watson was in critical, but stable condition. Kylie Watson was in stable condition.

Recke said Chad Watson told first responders that his wife and other children were still inside, but the rescuers couldn’t get into the house.

A family member, Ricky Keith, who lives about a mile from the home, said the couple struggled financially with Chad Watson working construction and handling a paper route while Nikki Watson stayed home with the children.

‘‘I don’t know how they made it as long as they had. They’ve struggled as long as I’ve known them, but they loved one another, I know that and they loved them kids,’’ Keith said.

The side and roof of the small, white wood frame house with three bedrooms and an enclosed porch collapsed around the chimney. At least five kids’ bikes and a child’s riding toy were strewn about the yard near a swing set.

Keith said the children played constantly in the yard.

‘‘They kept them in the yard and didn’t let them out of their sight,’’ Keith said.

Associated Press