An adult died but six children escaped a house fire Thursday morning in Glen Carbon.
Investigators were looking into the fire’s connection to a vehicle going into Silver Lake Thursday morning outside Highland. A baby was pulled from the vehicle, but rescuers did not immediately find a driver of the vehicle. About six hours later the body of Cristy Campbell was found near the vehicle.
Her body was pulled from the lake about 1:15 p.m.
Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said the Glen Carbon and Highland deaths appear related.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Nonn, Madison County Sheriff John Lakin and Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons held a joint news conference late Thursday afternoon about the fire and the vehicle in the lake.
Lakin said an official identification of the person who died in the fire had not been made as of late Thursday afternoon. “At this time that person has not been identified; we don’t know if it is a male or a female,” Lakin said.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday morning.
“It’s my understanding the body was very badly burned,” Lakin said.
Lakin said he could not officially link the vehicle that can be seen leaving the fire to the vehicle found in the lake.
He also said there were about 50 times since 2010 that police responded to the house on Dogwood for various reasons, including barking dogs, 911 hangups and other calls for service.
“Today was very tragic all the way around because of both scenes,” Lakin said.
Lakin gave credit to the Highland paramedic, Todd Zobrist, who got to the scene of the car in the lake quickly and dived into 46-degree water. He swam out 50 to 75 feet to the car.
“... He found a 3-month old child floating in the vehicle at the top of the water with about 6 inches of airspace above that,” Lakin said. “He was able to grab the child by a limb and removed the child from the car.”
Zobrist then began CPR on the roof of the car.
“I’m very happy to report ... that the child is doing very well and is anticipated to be released sometime tomorrow,” Lakin said.
“That man is a true hero,” Lakin said, adding that the community could be mourning the deaths of nine people if it weren’t for brave first-responders.
Highland Fire-EMS Chief Brian Wilson said at the press conference, “Todd right now is trying to keep warm. ... He — without question — exhibited bravery beyond what you expect. When they arrived he did not hesitate.”
“When everyone heard someone jumped in the water, there was no question of who it was,” Wilson added.
Lakin released the identification of the body found in the lake around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
The two-story home is at 15 Dogwood Lane. According to property records, it is owned by Cristy Lynn Campbell. On Thursday morning, Glen Carbon police said they were searching for Campbell. Glen Carbon police had issued an advisory describing her as a “person of interest” and “possibly endangered.”
Glen Carbon Police Lt. Wayne White said one adult died in the fire but six children who were in the house, all siblings, were accounted for after the fire. Two of the children ran to a nearby Walmart for help when the fire broke out about 5:30 a.m.
“We do believe when (the children) ran to the Walmart they contacted an employee who was reporting to work and asked them to call 911 because their house was on fire,” Lakin said.
The children who escaped the fire ranged in age, from very young to teens, police said. The children were placed in the care of relatives after the fire.
A Cristy Campbell from Glen Carbon has posted pictures on Facebook of her seven children, including a boy born about three months ago.
A neighbor, Sherry Ricker, said an adult male died in the fire, and that the vehicle in Silver Lake — a silver Nissan Armada — belonged to the man’s wife.
“That’s her car,” Ricker said.
Ricker said the couple had a baby that is 2 to 3 months old.
“They were nice people,” Ricker said. “I was really surprised, but I’m glad the kids are OK.”
Another neighbor, Mitchell Langenhorst, also said the vehicle that went into Silver Lake on belonged to the woman who lived at the house where the man died. He said the vehicle was frequently in front of the house.
The family seemed like a normal family, according to Lagenhorst.
Surveillance video from one neighbor showed a vehicle leaving the Campbell residence, with children apparently running toward the vehicle. Then children can be seen running down the street, as flashes of light — apparently from flames — come from the direction of the Campbell home.
White, the Glen Carbon lieutenant, said the cause of the fire wasn’t immediately clear.
“Our hearts and our thoughts and our prayers go out to the entire family for their terrible loss,” White said.
White said Glen Carbon police have responded to calls at the house “several times” in the past, but for just “day-to-day” calls.
White said the children who escaped the fire “are with family members at this time. They are receiving emotional support.”
Cristy Campbell’s Facebook page includes several posts about her family, including vacation pictures, children performing well in sports, one child getting braces and one child receiving a Do The Right Thing award.
For more on this developing story, return to bnd.com.