“A very sad day.”
Tragedy struck a Seneca County family Tuesday as authorities found five bodies following an early-morning house fire at 13843 Township Road 124 near Republic in Seneca County, about 20 miles southwest of Norwalk.
The victims were tentatively identified as Joseph D. Hamilton; his wife, Holly R. Hamilton, 31; her daughter, Olivia Bondy, 11; and the couple’s two sons, Jaxon Hamilton, 8, and Linkin Hamilton, 6.
(NOTE - To see pictures of the fire scene, click HERE.)
The fire was reported at 3:17 a.m. Tuesday by a truck driver traveling on Ohio 162, said Dean Henry, Seneca County public information officer. The trucker “saw flames and smoke and called it in,” he said.
When A.V.R. Fire District crews arrived on scene, the two-story, turn-of-the-century farmhouse was fully involved in what apparently was a fast-moving fire, Henry said.
Little remained of the wood-frame house as firefighters using a backhoe sifted through the rubble Tuesday afternoon in search of the victims’ bodies.
The first two bodies found in the morning are believed to be those of children who were in the same bed. A third victim was found in the 1 o’clock hour. Firefighters found another body after that. The fifth body was discovered shortly after 2 p.m.
Administrators at Seneca East Local Schools in nearby Attica where the children were students were contacted, and plans were activated to notify their classmates and make arrangements for counselors to be on hand for students who needed them.
Olivia was a sixth-grader; Jaxon was a second-grader, and Linkin was in kindergarten, according to Seneca East Elementary Principal Brad Powers. The children were not at school Monday, he said, because they had gone out of town for the long holiday weekend and were not expected to return until Tuesday.
Powers sent a letter home with students Tuesday informing them of the house fire.
Attica-area firefighters received mutual aid from the Huron River Joint Fire District, Bellevue and Republic agencies.
The Bellevue Fire Department was called at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the house at 3:57. Eleven firefighters responded with a tanker; they were released from the scene at 6:56 a.m.
Late in the morning there were 30 firefighters still at the scene.
“There were significantly more earlier in the day,” Henry said.
Through the afternoon, firefighters from Attica and Republic remained on the scene spraying water on the charred remains of the house, which continued to smolder.
Investigators with the state fire marshal’s office were on-scene all day, spokesman Matt Mullins said. He and A.V.R. Fire Chief Brett Meyers referred all questions to Henry.
“The state fire marshal’s office is handling the investigation,” Henry said. “The Seneca County engineer is helping out with the recovery effort.”
Henry said the Seneca County Coroner’s Office was on scene as the recovery effort continued into the afternoon.
Also at the scene was Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckleberry, who was unavailable for comment.
County auditor records indicate the Reed Township house was purchased by Joseph D. Hamilton in 2004.
There was no indication of where in the home, or how, the deadly fire started, Henry said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: McClatchy-Tribune News Service contributed to this story.