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11-13-02: Mendon woman dies, child injured in house fire
The Daily Standard
    MENDON - A fatal mobile home fire in Mendon on Tuesday evening left one woman dead and her 4-year-old son in critical condition this morning at St. Joseph's Hospital, Fort Wayne, Ind.
    Pronounced dead at Van Wert County Hospital at approximately 9:15 p.m. Tuesday was 20-year-old Sara (Diedrich) Cervantes. Her son, Isiah, was careflighted from the Van Wert Hospital to St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, where he was listed in critical condition this morning.
    An autopsy is being conducted on Cervantes by the Lucas County Coroner's Office, reported Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Hinders this morning. He was at the scene of the fire Tuesday night.
    According to Mendon Fire Chief Dennis Clay, the department received the first of at least three calls about the fire in the 200 block of North Main Street at 8:39 p.m. The house trailer is located just a half block away from the Mendon Firehouse.
    "When we got there, the front of the trailer already was fully engulfed with fire. The initial report said two, possible four, people were in the trailer," Clay said. "But we could only find two."
    The trailer, rented by Cervantes since May, is owned by Galen and Karen McMichael of Mendon, who operate Mendon Auto Sales at 206 N. Main St., directly beside the trailer.
 Several men were working in the auto sales building when Galen McMichael and his cousin, Dave McMichael, learned of the fire.
  A neighbor, Jim Thomas, came over and told us the trailer was on fire. We called the fire department and then went over to see if we could help," a weary Galen McMichael said this morning. "We all started hammering on the trailer to try to wake anyone up who may have been in there. We got our flashlights and tried looking into the windows and just kept beating on the trailer. We emptied our fire extinguishers and got out a garden hose, but it didn't help. It only took a couple of minutes for the fire trucks to get there, but it seemed like hours."
    The men in the body shop even put up a ladder to try to get in the trailer, but they were driven back by the smoke and heat, Karen McMichael said.
    "My husband and Rich Laux were trying to get the fire out in the front end and were beating on the trailer. Mike Dicke and Dave McMichael also were helping, running on the sides of the trailer and yelling, telling them to get out," Karen McMichael recalled this morning. "But the little boy wouldn't stay in the back. They saw him once, but he took off. We kept hearing there were four in the trailer and it was really confusing because everyone thought there were more kids in the trailer."
    Cervantes sometimes baby-sat for her sister's children, therefore, those at the scene didn't know exactly how many people were in the trailer, Galen McMichael said.
    Clay said firefighters attacked the fire from the kitchen area, which was in the front of the trailer, and then cut a hole in the back of the trailer to get the woman and boy out of the home. Clay and another unidentified firefighter immediately began CPR on the woman and child until the Celina and Rockford squads arrived.
    "I don't think either was conscious when they were taken out of the trailer," Galen McMichael said. "We did our best to get them out, but I looked in the other direction when they got them out."
    An unidentified firefighter also was taken to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys by a Celina squad, where he was treated for smoke inhalation.
    "But he came back later to help again," Clay added.
    Nineteen firefighters and three trucks remained on the scene until about 1:30 a.m. this morning, Clay said.
    The fire is being investigated by the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, Mendon Fire Department and the State Fire Marshall's Office. Dennis Cummins, with the state office, was at the scene of the fire Tuesday night and again this morning.
    "Right now, we don't know the cause of the fire but it appears to have started in the kitchen area," Hinders said.
    The home and its contents were a total loss.
    To add to the confusion and devastating scene, two Mendon volunteer firefighters, Jim Painter and Alan Uhrick, collided with each other as they were driving to the fire.
    Painter was taken to Joint Township hospital in St. Marys by a Celina unit where he was treated and released, but only after he helped fight the fire.
    "I was inside the trailer, with the Rev. Dean Bruce. We located the lady, but the smoke was so bad and we didn't see the boy. Between the fire and the accident, I guess my adrenaline was pumping and they thought I needed to get checked out. I'm okay this morning. My car isn't drivable, but that can be fixed, other things can't," Painter said this morning.


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