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Father of boy killed in Etowah County fire talks exclusively to - abc27 WHTM

Father of boy killed in Etowah County fire talks exclusively to ABC 33/40

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ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. - "He was Mr. Special, he had a big heart and he was always thinking of others before himself," Chris Atchley said.

Nine-year-old Callister Atchley died June 2 in a house fire in the Keener community, north of Gadsden.

"He loved science.  He loved building things, creating things, he loved working with his hands,"  Chris said.

"He was a little inventor, he was always tinkering and thinking about his next project he was going to work on."

Chris Atchley was on his way back from Mobile when he heard about the fire.  He picked up his grandmother and they were about 75 minutes south of Birmingham when he got the call.

His two other children, 10-year-old Alexandra and four-year-old Paul, received treatment for smoke inhalation.  Their mother, Jennifer Bates, suffered more serious injuries and doctors put her in a medically-induced coma.

It was her birthday.

A helicopter took Bates from Keener to UAB.  She stayed in the Intensive Care Unit until Saturday, and remains in the hospital.

"She suffered smoke inhalation and burns to her face, her arms, and her feet, but she's healing very well.  She rescued our two children here, but it's a tragic loss," Atchley said.

The family did not have insurance, so friends and neighbors are trying to provide support.  The "Atchley Family Fund" is set up at Winsouth Credit Union in Etowah County.  Chris Atchley said Absolute Fitness in Gadsden and Rainbow Monument Company also accepted donations.

"I want to thank everyone that's supporting. all the businesses, all the people, friends, family, all the neighbors known and unknown that are working and we thank you so much and thank you for all the prayers," he said.

"People that you've never even met or spoke to, it's so comforting to know that these people are coming out and helping, and all the love, the true love that people are showing, it's wonderful."

Atchley lost his job in April and recently received an employment offer in Florida.  He said that is still up in the air as he cares for Alexandra and Paul, and waits for their mother's recovery.  He said the new job is the last thing on his mind right now.

Investigators have yet to announce the cause of the fire, but Atchley said it doesn't matter to him.

"It's done now," he said.  "Nothing can change that."

Faith is carrying the family through the difficult time.

"I do not know how people live without God.  It's our faith in God that has helped us come through this.  Romans 8:28 says all things work to the good of those who love God, and are called to God according to his purpose.  If i didn't have that and if I didn't know that our son callister was with the lord now, I would lose my mind," Atchley said.

He said four-year-old Paul still asks about his brother, as he doesn't fully understand what's happened.  Alexandra is 13 months older than Callister, and Atchley said the two siblings were very close.  He said faith is helping her, too.

"It's wonderful that we taught our children from a very young age about God.  Just the basic things.  [Alexandra] has peace and comfort through that and it's helping her heal," he said.

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