CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When a 2-alarm fire destroyed a home in southeast Charlotte Thursday morning, it also ripped a family apart.
Firefighters were called just after 1 a.m. to the home on Wingfield Lane, off East W.T. Harris Boulevard and Idlewild Road, and when they arrived they saw heavy flames and smoke shooting from the structure.
Investigators said the fire killed a married couple and their dog.
It took more than 50 firefighters roughly 40 minutes to get the fire under control, but by then the flames had already destroyed the home.
Janet Hathcock said her brother Dennis Swafford and his wife Susan were trapped in the burning home and died in the fire.
"That's just not any way for anybody to go, at all,” Hathcock said. “I hope it was quick. I hope it was fast, I hope he soon didn't know, that he just went unconscious. That's all I hope."
Fire crews tried desperately to save the two people inside, but Dennis died at the scene and Susan died at the hospital, officials told Channel 9. Investigators said they were the only two people living inside.
Hathcock said Dennis had dementia and couldn't escape, but firefighters were able to pull his wife Susan out of a window.
"I'm pretty much in shock now,” Hathcock said. “I don't think it really has sunk in what is really going on."
A cocker spaniel named Sandy also died in the fire.
"That was their baby,” daughter-in-law Cindy Swafford said. “They didn't have kids, and each one of them felt like that was their kid."
Relatives spent hours at the scene Thursday morning, searching for anything they could save.
They found fishing rods that have smoke and fire damage, but are still usable, and the brother plans on keeping the rods to remember the couple.
In all of their grief, the family is comforting each other.
"At least they went together and didn't have to be without each other,” Hathcock said.
Firefighters were alerted to the fire after a neighbor spotted the flames and called 911.
The flames left walls melted, and part of the roof had collapsed.
Channel 9 was the first on the scene and watched as neighbors paced the streets, many with tears streaming down their faces.
Family members think the fire began in the kitchen, but investigators said they're still trying to figure out how it started.
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