A Gulfport neighborhood is in shock tonight after a tragic overnight fire. Three family members died after being trapped inside their burning home. Gulfport's fire chief says the fire started in the kitchen likely caused by food left cooking on the stove.
Several neighbors tried to rescue Jeremy Nofsinger and his two young stepsons. But it was too late. One of those neighbors was Demone Murrell. "When I came outside, the fire was coming through the roof of the house," he said just hours after the disaster.
Murrell was asleep at 1:00 this morning when his step-daughter came home and spotted the intense smoke and flames next door.
"I ran next door and tried to get the garage door open, but it was locked," he said. "Then I went to the front of the house and tried to get them up, get them out, but the door was locked."
Murrell watched helplessly as flames ate through part of his neighbor's home on Willliamsburg Drive.
Minutes later, Gulfport firefighters arrived. They found the bodies of 32-year old Jeremy Nofsinger, and his eight year old stepson Kaleb Sanders. They were huddled inside a closet. Kaleb's 12 year old brother Jessie was found dead in the hallway about 10 feet away.
That thought haunted Murrell. "I just thought about my children, how would I feel, it was really bad," he said.
Friends stood in front of the gutted house overcome with grief and shock. Tara Atkins and Makenzie Collins are friends of Jeremy Nofsinger's 13 year old daughter. She was visiting the family this summer and left just yesterday.
"All we could do was cry," said Atkins, "because we were just hanging out with them, her dad was so cool, he's such a great guy, he was so young and the fact that the kids were so young and they had so much potential, they had such high hopes ahead of them."
The friends placed flowers at the front door, a small memorial to honor the lives taken away too soon. "I can't believe that they're gone, I really can't because we just saw them yesterday," said Collins.
The boys' mom was at work when the fire broke out. She talked with Trang Pham Bui about the tragedy, and shared memories of her husband and two sons. Look for that story on WLOX News at 6:00 and here on WLOX.com.