Five bodies recovered, identified in Seneca Co. house fire

SENECA COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Five people have been identified following a large house fire in Seneca County between Bascom and Fostoria on SR 18 Thursday morning.

The family members who passed away were Jessica Rainey,7, Cody Rainey,15, Jodi Depinet-Rainey,41, James Rainey,45 and Austin Rainey, 19.

The funeral for the family will be on November 3 at 3 p.m. in the Hopewell-Loudon gym. The family will then be buried in St. John Cemetery in Fostoria.

Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on November 3 in the gym as well, according to the Advertiser Tribune.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to F.A.C.T., Special Olympics, Hopewell-Loudon Band, Seneca County Junior Fair Board. Donations can also be made to The Rainey-Depinet Memorial Fund at any Old Fort Bank.

Austin was a cadet for the Bascom Fire Volunteer Department.

He was to take his fire exam in only two weeks.

When his body, draped in an American flag, was transported from the scene, fellow firefighters lined up along the road saluting him.

"Very hard for all of them," Henry said. "It's a very small community, a very small department. All of these people know one another. Some of these firefighters are second and third generations firefighters. It's not just something they do, it's a part of their life. This has been very difficult for them today."

Jessica and Cody were students of Hopewell-Loudon. Austin was a recent graduate of Hopewell-Loudon.

The State Fire Marshal's Office says the cause of the fire is undetermined due to extensive damage the fire caused in the home. However, spokesperson Kelly Stincer says the office can't rule out electrical or heating as a cause of the fire.

The call for the fire originally came in at about 3:45 a.m.

When crews arrived, firefighters found the home completely engulfed in flames. Crews say the fire closed State Route 18.

"There was a lot of fire, so it took a little while to get it knocked down to where it was under control," said Chief Mark Devault of the Bascom Joint Fire District.

When the fire was finally extinguished, the department found the bodies of three victims inside.

Firefighters believed there were two more victims inside the home and continued a slow search of the partially collapsed structure for the remaining two victims. Just after 1 p,m., firefighters found the bodies of the remaining two victims, including Rainey's.

"Because of the structures instability and how it had collapsed, when crews were taking debris off, they had discovered the other two bodies," Ohio Fire Marshall Public Information Officer Kelly Stincer said.

The State Fire Marshal, as well as the Bascom, Fostoria, New Riegel, Kansas, Attica, Bloomville and Old Fort volunteer fire crews were on the scene.

A BCI agent was also assisting the investigation with 3-D imaging technology. The hope was the imaging would help to find out the cause of the fire.

The State Fire Marshal's Office also used drone images and service dogs to help determine the cause of the fire.

The Fire Marshal's office says they do not believe the fire is suspicious. Investigators did not say if heaters caused the fire, but warned others of fire damages that can come from heaters.

"This fire comes at the start of winter heating season so it's a really good opportunity for the folks at home to check their furnaces and chimneys and make sure that everything is clean and up to date," Stincer said. "If you're using portable heaters, to make sure those heaters have that three feet of safe space."

Hopewell-Loudon Schools and Seneca County Opportunity Center ran on a two-hour delay as a result of the fire.

"It's a very tight community, so when there's children involved that are Hopewell-Loudon students, the school is affected. I know they're responding, they have mental health people over there and they've had assistance from other school districts as well," said Henry.

Alvarado says the family who lived at the home was part of the Hopewell-Loudon community and well known in the school. For neighbors, their concern for the family is turning into heartbreak.

"I just can't believe something like that could happen, and the whole family gets wiped out. I mean really, I can understand maybe one person or two people when something happens all of a sudden, but the whole bunch," neighbor Howard Laney said. "I'm just curious to see what they're going to come up with."

Some of the neighbors in the area did not know the family. But they do know how deep of a wound the tragedy will have on their community.

"We've had our fair share of disasters here in town, right here in town, but that there is going to be the worst," said Sherri Blackburn. "Going toward Tiffin, not seeing that house, not seeing toys, that's going to be bad. Worst thing I've ever seen."

Hopewell-Loudon superintendent David Alvarado said a therapy dog was brought in from Tiffin to help the students cope with the tragedy.

There was a gathering at the school Thursday night to mourn the victims.

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