HEPHZIBAH, GA (WFXG) - Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a fire that killed 76-year-old Delores Ann Strickland and sent her husband to the hospital on Sunday morning.
Strickland's family said they still can't believe what happened. Since the fire started in the Windsor Spring Road home while the couple was sleeping, the family is hoping Delores Strickland didn't suffer.
"I just pray to God that she was asleep and didn't feel anything," said Johnny Dempsey, Strickland's son-in-law. "She was a good woman, and I pray God showed her mercy before any pain got to her."
Dempsey said he just spoke to his mother-in-law and father-in-law on Friday. He said when he woke up Sunday morning, the news of the fire crushed his entire family.
"We're devastated right now. Most of my kids are falling apart," Dempsey said. "They don't know what to do right now."
The fire burned the home down to its core and destroyed mostly everything inside. The 911 call center got the call around 7 a.m. Sunday. By 8:15 a.m., Coroner Mark Bowen said Strickland had died from injuries received from the fire. Dempsey said his neighbors tried to get inside to help before first responders arrived, but the fire had grown too large. His father-in-law, known as Pappy, managed to escape.
"Pappy tried to get her out and get her awake and all but he couldn't wake her up and he caught on fire," Dempsey said.
Just hours after the morning blaze shattered their world, Dempsey and his family are trying to salvage anything they can from the home. Combing through the debris, hoping to find family photos, or keepsakes, and asking themselves why.
"For it to happen that quick and that fast, it just doesn't make sense," Dempsey said.
Strickland's body has been sent to the GBI crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy.
Dempsey said the family is looking for a family member named Donald Curry, to notify him of his mom's passing. They said Curry is in a nursing home in Augusta. They're not sure which one, and all of the papers in the home have been destroyed. If you have any information on Curry's location, contact our reporter Traci Washington by email or Facebook.