Sunday, March 19, 2000
By Ann Belser, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
A young girl who was trying to rescue her infirm father from the fire that was consuming their home died with him early yesterday morning.
Ed Nicholson, the chief of the South Brownsville Fire Department, said 14-year-old Christina Lancaster was found four feet from the front door of her family's two-story home on Green Street in Brownsville, Fayette County.
Christina's father, Roy D. "Wayne" Lancaster, 39, was found near her. Nicholson said Roy Lancaster suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had debilitated him to the point that he was unable to escape the blaze by himself.
"We found them in a doorway, trying to get out the door... It looked to us like she was trying to pull him out of the house," Nicholson said. He said Roy Lancaster was probably too heavy for Christina to save.
Nicholson said Christina and her father were overcome by smoke inhalation before they could make it outside to safety.
The call went out to the South Brownsville Fire Department at 1:33 a.m. yesterday. Nicholson said four fire companies responded, which is the usual procedure for fires in that area.
He said it took about 30 minutes to get the fire under control, but another two hours to extinguish all of the hot spots. The fire started downstairs, but the state police fire marshal for the Uniontown barracks is trying to determine the exact cause and origin of the fire. He said there is no reason to suspect arson.
Neighbors spent yesterday walking around in shock, unable to believe that such a tragedy had occurred so close to home, said Gerri Sabbrese, who lives across the street from the Lancasters.
"I've looked out the door every couple of minutes today and I still can't believe it," she said of yesterday's fire.
Sabbrese said Lancaster's wife, Chris, and his older daughter, Monique, were at a dance when the fire broke out in the family's home.
Sabbrese described the Lancasters a good neighbors. She said Lancaster would ride up and down the street in a motorized scooter during the warmer months, visiting with all of the neighbors. And, despite his own health problems, he would always ask about Sabbrese, who was awaiting a liver transplant.
She said Christina was a typical young girl, who liked to have fun and get into mild mischief. She said Christina would fight with her older sister and later be seen walking with Monique as close as sisters can be.
"She was a regular girl who should have had a chance," Sabbrese said about Christina.
Nicholson called the house a total loss. He said whatever wasn't burned
was damaged by the smoke, the heat and the water used to douse the fire.