Heater May Have Caused Deadly LeFlore County Fire

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Three people died in a house fire Saturday morning about three miles west of Shady Point, Okla., in LeFlore County.

“We were just devastated. This family's been through a lot,” said Crystal Marcheterre-Helton, a relative.

LeFlore County Sheriff Rob Seale said a fire was reported at a home on Latham Road at approximately 9:50 a.m., and four fire departments responded within 10 minutes. By the time fire trucks arrived, the single-story home was fully engulfed in flames.

“All they could do was try to save the surrounding structures,” said Seale.

It took firefighters two hours, Seale said, to bring the fire under control because the home was in a rural area without fire hydrants so pumper trucks had to be continually refilled and brought back to the site. The house collapsed during the fire and, when firefighters entered, they found three bodies.

Seale identified the victims as Paul and Levunia Helton, both 73, and their 3-year-old great grandson, Riley. Paul Helton was found in the bathroom and his wife was found in the living room with her great grandson.

“To lose them both at the same time a long with little Riley was just, it was devastating,” said Marcheterre-Helton.

Marcheterre-Helton married into the family. She says the Heltons were like her own grandparents. “Everybody loved them,” she said. “Everybody called them granny and papa.”

Seale said the bodies were burned beyond recognition but authorities are confident of their identities. The bodies were taken to the medical examiner in Tulsa for official identification.

Witnesses told officials the fire appeared to start on the side of the house where there is a propane heating wall unit. Seale said the cause appears to be accidental, but the LeFlore County fire marshal was continuing to investigate.

“It appeared to be an accident with the heating system,” Seale said.

Marcheterre-Helton says Paul and Levunia were married almost 60 years. “I just you know want people to pray for our family and just know that these were really good people, who loved their family and their grandchildren,” she said.

The family has not finalized funeral arrangements yet.