Elderly couple dies in Pekin house fire

By WEEK Producer

January 13, 2013 Updated Jan 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM CDT

PEKIN, Ill. -- Pekin authorities are investigating a fatal Sunday morning house fire.

An elderly Pekin couple's home was completely destroyed in a fire and a family's nightmare come true.

"We knew. We knew what could have happened. It's just the shock of it actually did," said granddaughter Brittany Garland.

Garland watched as Pekin authorities tore down what was left of the home of her grandparents, Sam and Barbara Garland, both in their 70's.

Fire and police crews were called to 206 Cottage Grove Avenue around 8:30 Sunday morning.

Authorities say the house was completely engulfed in flames, and the couple likely buried in the basement, under what they describe as a significant amount of personal property.

"It was piled pretty high in the house and in the basement, it was piled pretty high, too. So, what's making it difficult is what you had on the upper floor has now fallen into the basement," said Officer Don Jolly of the Pekin Police Department.

"They lived in the basement, because they collected a lot," said Brittany Garland, "and it was a disease. The house sparked up, and they got trapped".

When crews arrived, they suspected the couple was still inside the house, since both cars were in the driveway.

Authorities had to use heavy equipment to remove walls and parts of the home packed with clutter.

After hours of searching, firefighters say they were able to recover both bodies trapped in a home the family calls a death trap.

"She didn't really think about the repercussions of it, you know," said Garland. "She kept doing it and kept doing it, and this is the aftermath of it... it's just a very unfortunate situation, and we are going to miss them dearly."

Tazewell County Coroner's Office has not yet confirmed the identities, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

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