Moss Point family grieves following two fire deaths

Penny Sue Doyle
Penny Sue Doyle

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Two women died when flames raced through a house on Palmetto Drive in Moss Point early Friday morning. The coroner identified one victim as 60-year-old Guawaina Cooley. An autopsy will be done Saturday. The other woman is her 49-year-old cousin Penny Sue Doyle of Alabama. She died of smoke inhalation. Both women were trapped inside the house.

"It's very hard. She was the most loving person," said Guawaina Johnson as she broke down in tears.

Grief overcame Johnson as she remembered her mother, Guawaina Cooley. The Moss Point woman was born in a house on Palmetto Drive. That was where she died when a fire broke out around midnight.

Her first thought was, "Oh, God, is my momma all right? When I got there they wouldn't tell me anything at the time. Then later on we found out that it was her in there, and she was gone."

According to Moss Point Police Chief Keith Davis, two of his officers were the first on the scene.  They tried to remove a window air conditioning unit, but couldn't. The officers then ran to the front of the house and managed to kick in the front door. That's where they found Penny Sue Doyle. But the fire was so intense, they couldn't pull her out.

"Because of the heat and the smoke inside the house the officers had to come out, get their breath, go back into the house and they were able to eventually carry her out with the assistance of the fire department," said Davis.

Investigators said Cooley was trapped in the back kitchen where they believe the fire started.

"The main part of the fire was in the rear of the house where the victim was and they made every effort to get to her. And by the time they got to her, it was too late," said Interim Moss Point Fire Chief Tommy Posey.

Cooley spent much of her time in the kitchen. She retired as a cook at a Pascagoula nursing home. Family members said they were all together Thursday night, making plans for the Cowboy Cabaret this weekend and cooking the family's Blue Moon burgers to sell Friday.

"She was great. I mean she loved to laugh, have fun, love to cook," said her niece Doreen McBeath. "Next minute she's gone. I mean this is really awful."

Now, instead of celebrating, family members were making funeral plans and consoling each other as they tried to make sense of this tragedy.

"She was jolly. She was just happy. She had a glow about her. She talked about this coming up weekend and what all of us in the family were going to do, what we were going to fix. She was just wonderful," said Johnson.

Moss Point police officers Timothy Regan and Charles Ward helped with the rescue effort. They were treated for smoke inhalation and released. The fire chief says he won't know the exact cause of the fire until Monday.

Cooley's husband passed away after Hurricane Katrina. She leaves behind her only daughter, three grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

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