NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — A North Carolina community has been left reeling with the sudden deaths of three beloved neighbors.
“I couldn’t do nothing but cry,” said Northampton County resident Vernell Hendricks.
Hendricks says she was at home Wednesday night when she heard sirens and saw flashing lights outside her window off US 258. At the time, she didn’t know a fire was engulfing her neighbor’s trailer down the street.
“There were so many policeman down there, fire trucks, all that. It was so sad,” she said.
Fire officials say a trailer caught on fire around 11:50 p.m. Wednesday. Three occupants were trapped inside the home. Firefighters tried cutting through the trailer to get them out. The Northampton Sheriff’s Office says 31-year-old Sarah Vann and her two children were killed.
The ECU Division of Autopsy and Forensic Research confirmed they have the bodies of 11-year-old Chase Vann and two-year-old Saphira Vann.
Hendricks says she’s friends with Vann’s family and has known them for decades.
“They seemed to be very,very nice people. They’d do anything for you. They’d help you,” she said.
The SBI is investigating the fire, but officials believe it was accidental.
10 On Your Side spoke with one of Vann’s cousins outside of the trailer in Northampton. He told us a dryer started the blaze.
Hendricks, who was folding her own laundry during the interview, says she’s upset people she’s grown to love were tragically taken. She says the Vanns helped her through the death of her husband and son. Now, she’s hoping to return kindness.
“I’m going to do everything in the world that I can,” Hendricks said.
One community member has already started a GoFundMe page to help the family during the holiday.
“Nothing’s going to help all the way but a little bit of something will make a difference,” said Adam Johnson.
Johnson says the page was set up by a family friend to support Vann’s family during their time of need. He says his son and Chase Vann were best friends.
“You could basically say they were just like brothers, but not by blood. They acted like they were. They were something else,” he said.
Johnson says he told his son about Chase’s death before school Thursday morning.
“That was very hard. My wife and I had a hard time telling him about that. That was his best friend,” he said.
Johnson says Chase was supposed to come over this weekend like he had many times before.
“He was the sweetest little boy you could ever meet. You could tell he was brought up right,”
Johnson says many in the community are having difficulties dealing the deaths.
“It’s going to haunt me and everyone else for a while. Time will put a band-aid on everything,” he said.
10 On Your Side spoke with one of Vann’s family members off camera, who says they’re asking the community for prayers.