Investigators: Lighter sparked fatal Oceanway fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Children playing with fire accidentally sparked the fire that torched a mobile home in Oceanway and killed a woman and three of her grandchildren back in June, according to state investigators.

Related: Oceanway mobile home fire victims laid to rest

On Thursday, the state Fire Marshal's Office released its findings on the deadly fire that it says started in a bedroom and surged through the home on Palmetto Street June 17.

"At this time the fire appears to be accidental caused by children playing with fire," the Fire Marshal's report said, citing statements from lone survivor 6-year-old Hattie Fowler. She was rescued thanks to the heroics of 13-year-old passerby Robert Pritchard, who ran inside and brought her out before getting help.

Sheila Swearingen and the rest of her grandchildren -- 9-month-old Janet Fowler, 2-year-old Rachel Fowler and 4-year-old Richard Fowler Jr. -- died as the home went up in flames. Extensive damage to the floor near a window in one bedroom suggests that's where the fire started before roaring into the hallway and blocking their way out, according to the report.

Related: Services held for Oceanway mobile home fire victims

"The fire blowing out this bedroom door would have hindered any escape down the hall from the bedroom in the southwest corner of the house where the four victims were found by firefighters," the report said.

The children's parents, 54-year-old Richard Fowler Sr. and 31-year-old Jennifer Fowler, were in jail at the time.


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