89-year-old Who Died in Fire Loved Her Independence, Family Says

The woman used a wheelchair, and was home alone.

Lynchburg, SC (WLTX) - Hattie McCray just couldn't believe it.

Around 12:30 AM Friday morning she says she got a call that her cousin's house was on fire.

"We were just here yesterday," McCray said.

McCray's cousin, 89-year-old Bertha Edwards, lived in the house alone. She says she and her husband Sylvester McCray had checked on her twice on Thursday.

"We were supposed to take care of her and watch her here this afternoon," McCray said.

When she got the call about the fire, she feared the worst.

"We knew she couldn't get out because she was in a wheelchair," McCray said.

The couple knew it would be cold Thursday night, snow from Wednesday's deep freeze still surrounding Edwards' Lee County home. Sylvester says they even asked Edwards to come home with them.

"My wife offered for her to come home with us yesterday afternoon, but being the independent person that she is, she refused," Sylvester McCray said.

Sylvester says despite being in her 80s, having an amputated leg, and being confined to a wheelchair, Edwards still loved doing things for herself.

"She was still doing her little harden and keeping her house to the best of her abilities so that's how things wound up," Sylvester said.

Lee County Fire Chief Mike Bedenbaugh says they haven't determined an official cause of the fire, but notes that it started near space heaters.

"The only thing she had to heat with was an kerosene heater and another small electric heater," Sylvester said. "I'm pretty sure that  the kerosene was what caused the accident."

McCray says the two came today to say good-bye to the woman she's known her whole life.

"Yea I just had to be here, I came out last night, I just wanted to come again today just to see the space where she lost her life, you know memories," McCray said.

The Lee County coroner has still not released an official cause of death.

© 2018 WLTX-TV


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