Written by 7:18 am In the News

Fire kills pastor, family

A pastor, two of his daughters and three of his granddaughters have died in a Wisconsin house fire, authorities and church officials said.

The Juneau County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that 66-year-old Steven Witte, 38-year-old Charis Kuehl and 35-year-old Lydia Witte were killed in the fire early Sunday morning in Necedah. Three children — ages 2, 5 and 8 — also died in the blaze. The sheriff’s office did not release their names.

Pastor Larry Schlomer told NBC affiliate WMTV that Witte initially escaped the fire before realising that his grandchildren were trapped inside.

“He actually made it out of the house and found out that two of his granddaughters were still inside,” Schlomer told the news station. “He went back in, seeing if he could save them and unfortunately, did not make it.”

He added, “It was such a tremendous loss, that many deaths within the same family.”

The fire had broken out just before 2:30 am at a vacation rental where the family was staying near the Wisconsin Dells

Staff at Beautiful Saviour Lutheran Church in Green Bay and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod President Mark Schroeder said in a joint statement that Steve Witte served as a missionary in Thailand and as a pastor at Beautiful Saviour Lutheran Church from 2001 to 2009. Lydia Witte and Charis Kuehl were his daughters and the three children were his granddaughters.

The Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions Administrator, told WMTV-TV that the family was holding a get-together at the house when the fire broke out.

“It was such a tremendous loss, that many deaths within the same family,” Schlomer said.

The state fire marshal is assisting with the investigation into the fire but the sheriff’s office said in its release Tuesday that the fire appears to have been accidental.

(AP; Picture Courtesy: Kathryn Muchnick, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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