BLAIN, Pa. (WHTM) - Seven children have died in a devastating fire in Perry County, and new information has confirmed that their mother is currently pregnant.
Janelle Clouse is due to give birth to the baby in June, sources say - although what could have been the ninth addition to the family will now only become the fourth member. The Clouse's three-year-old daughter Leah was the only child to survive the fire as she ran out to warn her mother of the smoke.
Police said six girls Clouse girls and their brother were found dead Tuesday night inside their two-story farmhouse at 51 Madison Road in Blain.
They were identified as 11-year-old Christina, nine-year-old Isabel, seven-year-old Brady, six-year-old Hannah, four-year-old Heidi, two-year-old Maranda, and seven-month-old Samantha Clouse.
The Perry County coroner's office said the children died of smoke inhalation and no autopsies would be performed.
State police Trooper Tom Pinkerton said the victims' mother, Janelle Clouse, was milking cows shortly after 10 p.m. when three-year-old Leah ran into the barn and told her there was smoke in the house.
Pinkerton said that after Mrs. Clouse tried to get into the home and was turned back by the flames, she ran for help to a neighbor's house, where no one answered. She then ran to a second neighbor who called 911, and then ran to where her husband was taking a nap about a mile away in his milk truck.
Police said the father, Ted Clouse, had left the home to collect milk and had made a few stops before pulling over for a nap.
Authorities said that when the parents returned, firefighters were already battling the flames that had engulfed the home.
Neighbors on Wednesday came to offer their condolences and to help with the farm work. Those who knew the family said the Clouse home was full of love, and the parents are now devastated.
"They both feel that anything they could have done different would have helped," neighbor Mike Trout said.
"He stood by the entire time and he appeared to be absolutely distraught, as anybody could imagine," Pinkerton said. "You know, his seven children are inside the residence and he knew they had perished, so that makes it even harder to take for him."
Carolyn Albright, an aunt to the children, said the entire family is in shock.
"I just feel sick, it's like a hole in my heart," she said. "It's unbelievable that they're gone. They were my kids' best friends."
Four of the children were students at Blain Elementary School. Dr. Rhonda Brunner, Superintendent of West Perry Schools, said counselors have been made available to classmates.
"At this time, the West Perry family is grieving the tragic deaths of the Clouse children," Brunner said in a statement. "And we are attending to the needs of the staff and students."
Three-year-old Leah, who alerted her mother to smoke in the home, survived.
"It's lucky that the three-year-old, at least, was able to make to out of the house, but to live with the fact that the rest of her siblings perished inside, it's just a sad, sad day," Pinkerton said.
Authorities did not immediately determine the cause of the fire, and said the investigation would take a week or more due to the extent of the damage.
His family said that Mr. Clouse balanced his work as a farmer with a job collecting raw milk from farms in western Perry County for delivery to a milk processor. They said he often napped between farms.
The American Red Cross is assisting the family with food and clothing.
Donations may be sent to:
Clouse Family Fund c/o Church of the Living Christ P.O. Box 180 Loysville, PA 17047
Clouse Fire Relief Fund c/o Bank of Landisburg P.O. Box 179 Landisburg, PA 17040
Donations can be made to any M&T bank branch for "The Clouse Farm Family Trust Fund."
Also, a collection effort will be held Saturday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church along Route 274 in Landisburg.