ST. LOUIS — Investigators might never know what sparked a fast-moving mobile home fire New Year's Day that killed three people in southern Illinois whose identities were released Wednesday, a local sheriff said.
Michael Owens, 33, Tabatha Banks, 32, and Nicholas Cochran, 23, died of smoke inhalation in Hamletsburg, according to autopsy findings.
Pope County Sheriff Jerry Suits said there was no evidence of foul play in the blaze that broke out shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday. He said investigators believed it was accidental.
"We may never know what started it," Suits said of the fire in the remote Ohio River community of just a few dozen people. "It's going to continue to be undetermined."
A fourth occupant escaped the deadly fire, telling investigators he was awakened by a dog's plaintive barking and saw flames shooting through a wall. He said he shouted to others in the home and heard them insist "they were getting out," Suits said.
The man ran to the home of a neighbor, who summoned help. Emergency responders found the home engulfed in flames. The victims' bodies were found in their bedrooms, Suits said.
It's not immediately clear whether the dog survived.
Suits said the survivor is "devastated" and that the tragedy has shaken the 4,400-resident county. "It's a shock to us down here," Suits said. "Neighbors are still in shock."