A 10-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl were among four people who died Tuesday after an explosion inside an Apache Junction mobile home caused the unit to catch fire.
On Thursday, an Apache Junction Unified School District official identified the boy as Joseph Schell, a fourth-grader, and the girl as Angel Etris, a first grader. Both were students at the district’s Superstition Mountain Elementary School.
Fire crews responded to the fire in the 1400 block of South Lawson Drive between Ironwood and Meridian roads about 9:30 p.m. and were told by neighbors that four people were inside, according to information from the Apache Junction Fire Department.
In addition to the two children — both students at Superstition Mountain Elementary School — a 38-year-old and 32-year-old man also were killed. All four of their bodies were discovered by the door of the residence, according to the Apache Junction Fire Department.
One of the victims was Bob Shell, Jr., 38, the boy’s father.
Schell’s stepbrother, Ricky Etris, 32, and his seven-year-old daughter were believed to be visiting at the home.
“Obviously, it’s a very difficult situation for our school and students,” said Dr. Chad Wilson, superintendent of the Apache Junction Unified School District. “One of our goals is to help those during this difficult time and the families of the children.”
One of the men inside the residence was a licensed ammunition dealer and there was a lot of gunfire going off while fire crews battled the blaze against heavy winds, according to Mike Farber, a battalion chief for the Apache Junction Fire Department.
The blaze was extinguished in about 30 minutes and its cause remains under investigation.
“We got there pretty quickly,” Farber said. “We were fighting windy conditions and the fire was very intense. The home was 100 percent engulfed when we got there and was pretty much gone by time we got there.”
Farber said that there has been a few fires in Apache Junction in the last two months, but it had been a while since any fatalities resulted from one.
A posting on the Apache Junction Unified School District’s Facebook page Wednesday said: “AJUSD is saddened to announce that a tragic house fire in Apache Junction last night claimed the lives of two young children, as well as two adults. As educators, there is no worse scenario than the thought of losing a student — a feeling we know that pales in comparison to the grief suffered by the victim’s families. We ask for your thoughts and prayers to be with those affected by this tragedy. Counselors are available at Superstition Mountain Elementary School for any student, staff, or community member that needs assistance throughout the rest of the week.”
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