Family, friends remember those killed in Knox County house fire
State police, firefighters continuing investigation and recovery efforts
The funerals for the seven people killed in the house fire in Gray Saturday will be held this week in Corbin and Woollum.
Knox County Coroner Mike Blevins said the two adults and five children have been positively identified as: Jesse Disney, 27, Nina Asher, 22, William Gray, Jr., 3, Camden Gray, 2, Abigail Gray, 8 months, Paiten Cox, 2 and Brielle Cox, 2. In addition, Asher was pregnant.
Disney will be at Hart Funeral Home in Corbin. Visitation is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. today, with the funeral at 11 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home.
Disney is a 2004 graduate of Lynn Camp High School.
Teacher Arthur Canada said he had Disney in class multiple times and remembers him as being really bright with a gift for thinking outside the box.
“He was one of the more well-liked students, by his peers, teachers and everyone at school,” Canada said.
While he was a likeable student, Canada said Disney liked to have fun and could be mischievous.
“It was never anything malicious,” Canada said. “It was all in good fun.”
Corbin Firefighter Brandon Ledford said while Disney was a year younger than him; he knew him through Disney’s brothers and was friends with him.
“He was a real good guy who liked to joke and cut up with you,” Ledford said, adding that Disney was a nice person who would help someone if he could.
“It’s a shame because he had so much potential,” Ledford said.
Services for Asher and the three Gray children will be at Knox Funeral Home in Barbourville.
Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in Corbin is in charge of the arrangements for the Cox children. Joan Wyatt, the office manager, said visitation will be 6-9 p.m. today and noon until 2 p.m. Thursday. The funeral will follow at 2 p.m.
“We are donating our services to them, but they are still working on a burial site,” Wyatt said.
Several donations for funeral expenses have been made. Wyatt said those and any other donations will be channeled toward the purchase of a headstone.
“The family is still working on a burial site,” Wyatt said.
Anyone who would like to make a donation toward the Cox funerals may contact Vankirk-Grisell Funeral home during business hours, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, either by phone, (606) 528-3131, or in person.
“Donations may also be made by mail,” Wyatt said. “If you do so, please contact us, so we know to look for it.”
Visitation for Asher and her children is scheduled for 1-10 p.m. Friday at Antioch Baptist Church in Woollum. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church.
Knox Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
The cause of death for each of the victims has been determined as smoke inhalation. Blevins said the smoke and soot fills the individual’s lungs and bronchial tubes, cutting off the Oxygen supply.
“It depends on the size of the person and how thick the smoke is, but it is usually a matter of seconds,” Blevins said.
Kentucky State Police arson investigators were called to the scene on Shady Brook Lane, just off of Sam Parker Road in the Gray community Saturday afternoon. Officials said that is standard procedure when dealing with the aftermath of a fatal fire.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Shane Jacobs, public affairs officer at Post 10 in Harlan, said investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire. However, neither arson, nor foul play, is suspected.
West Knox Fire Chief Daryl Baker said the fire appears to have started in the front room.
Jacobs said it will likely be several months before the investigator’s final report comes back.
Rumors have circulated about a possible meth lab at the home.
Jacobs said there was no evidence of a meth lab.
“If that was the case, we would be conducting a criminal investigation,” Jacobs said.
West Knox firefighters were paged to the scene at 9:21 a.m. The initial call was a structure fire with heavy smoke showing.
Baker said the first units arrived on scene within six minutes to find the home fully engulfed.
Gino Cima, who is Disney’s uncle by marriage, arrived soon after the first firefighters,
“They thought no one was home because no vehicles were in the driveway,” Cima said “I told them that there were kids inside.”
Cima added that he initially told firefighters about the three children belonging to Asher. He was unaware of the presence of the two Cox girls.
West Knox Fire Chief Daryl Baker said at that point, firefighters changed their mission from fire suppression to search and rescue.
Firefighters made entry through the front door where they found the five children on the floor.
Firefighters got the children outside, but they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Cima said he went to the back door, which he found partially open. He found Asher inside, within inches of the door and pulled her outside.
Cima said he went back inside and found Disney nearby, pulling him outside.
"They were done gone,” Cima said. “It must have been smoking for some time."
Bailey Switch Fire Department provided a tanker for additional water and also helped with traffic control.
Woodbine Fire Department sent additional manpower.
“On a typical fire, we will have guys go through one or two bottles of air,” Baker said. “We had some guys go through five and six bottles Saturday. They just didn’t want to quit.”
Baker said with West Knox firefighters focusing on search and rescue, the fire had time to spread. Woodbine firefighters finished extinguishing the fire and knocking down any hotspots that remained.
Cima said Disney and Asher were in the process of remodeling the home. As part of that, they were in the process of cleaning the carpets and had been working on that Friday night.
“My baby (Disney) is working his butt off to get our house done walls with fresh paint and carpets cleaned what doesn’t come clean gets replaced so excited to see what it looks like when he is done,” Asher had posted on her Facebook page.
Asher had also made comments on her Facebook page about how well her boys were bonding with Disney.
“That's my men,” Asher had posted with a picture of the boys and Disney. “I love them so much and the boys love Jesse.”
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