An elderly couple tragically died after they became trapped in the master bedroom bathroom during a house fire.
Kenneth and Phyllis Zerr, both 84 years old, were in their home together on Tall Cedar Court in New Melle, Missouri, early Thursday morning when the fire broke out.
Kenneth called 911 dispatchers and opened a door to allow firefighters to enter. He was about to grab his wife, who used a wheelchair, but she had fallen in the bathroom of the master bedroom, according to New Melle Fire Chief Dan Casey via CBS News. They then became trapped after the floor started to collapse.
Firefighters tried to find the couple amid the thick smoke but were forced to retreat when the floor collapsed.
The couple’s son, Andy Zerr, told KSDK-TV that while his father had a chance to leave the house, he chose to stay behind and comfort his wife in their final moments.
“The dispatch was on the phone with my father and my father was trying to help my mother out of the house and they got trapped,” Andy Zerr said. “The dispatch told my father to come out of the house and my father said, ‘I’m not leaving my wife,’ and stayed with her until the end.”
When fire crews were able to enter the bathroom, the couple was found dead. Fire officials say they died of smoke inhalation.
Kenneth and Phyllis had been married for 63 years and had lived in the house for 18 years. The couple had three children, six grandchildren, and a dozen great-grandchildren, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Everybody wanted to be like them and everybody wanted to be with them. My mom and dad were salt of the earth,” Andy told KSDK-TV while recalling the impact his parents had on those around them.
This is a hard hit for our small community. All the crews on the scene did everything humanly possible to rescue the victims,” the New Melle Fire Department wrote in a Facebook post.
Crews were dispatched this morning for an unknown type fire on Tall Cedar Ct. The first arriving truck was our station…
Posted by New Melle Fire Protection District on Thursday, November 10, 2022
The cause of the fire is believed to be accidental although it is unknown whether they both had working smoke detectors, Casey noted.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.