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Fire ends in tragic story

Father recalls events that led to deaths of wife, children

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2008

About a week after a fire broke out in the living room of his Kenai trailer and killed his wife, two boys and stepdaughter, Frank Hunt Sr. wants the community to know what happened.

In an account written by his uncle, George Hunt, Frank said he did everything he could to save his wife and children.

"Whatever's on that piece of paper is the story," Frank told the Clarion on Friday. "It's too hard for me to tell it.

"I told my uncle the whole story, and what he wrote you is the entire story. I read it, and it's exactly word for word."

According to George's written account, Frank's stepdaughter, Judy Jones, 13, and his sons Frank Jr., 7, and Ryan, 4, sleep in two bedrooms at the front of the trailer. The dining room and kitchen are in the middle part of the house with the bathroom and master bedroom toward the end.

According to the letter, Frank, his wife, Christina, and their children were in bed late on the morning of March 15 because they stayed up late to watch movies the night before, and the two boys had fallen asleep on a small mattress in the living room.

Frank woke up at 5:30 a.m. and noticed his older son was asleep in their room. He went into the living room and Ryan was still asleep on the mattress. He covered Ryan up and went back to bed.

The smoke alarm went off later that morning and Frank Jr. woke his parents up. Their bedroom door had been open a few inches and, even though the smoke detector had fresh batteries, it wasn't making much noise, Frank said.

When he told Christina the house was on fire, she jumped up and grabbed Frank Jr. Neither she nor Frank were aware until after the fire that Ryan was in the bedroom with them when the fire started. Because Ryan had a habit of going into his sister's room at night, Frank and Christina thought he was with Judy.

Christina went to the window and yelled at Frank to get Judy. Frank said he tried to get to Judy's room and made it as far as the kitchen area but retreated back to the bathroom because the living room was fully engulfed. He stumbled into the bathroom and almost fell into the shower because the trailer was completely black with smoke, almost to the floor.

"He finally managed to find and break the bathroom window with his hand and dive out onto the snow," George wrote. "He ran to the door of the entry way near the front of the trailer and was in the process of kicking down the locked metal door when a passerby stopped and assisted him.

"Once inside, they kicked down the door that went into the front room. They were met by another wall of flames. (Frank) received a burn on his shoulder, hands, feet and his hair was singed. He was unable to rescue his daughter from the front room."

According to George, Frank ran around the outside of the trailer to a window that led into his daughter's bedroom, but it already was filled with fire and smoke.

He and the passerby then went to the back of the trailer, expecting to find Christina and her sons outside, but when they arrived, the master bedroom was fully engulfed in flames.

"She had not been able to get the little boys out before she was overcome by the smoke," George wrote.

"Frank was left standing in the snow with his underwear burned half off. He had heard his family die and was unable to do anything to save them."

In a phone conversation with George on Friday, he said he met his nephew's wife and saw his nephew's family occasionally. He was especially impressed with the relationship Frank had with his stepdaughter.

"(They were) real close," he said. "He treated that little stepdaughter of his just like his very own."

George also wants people to know that Frank did not abandon his family.

"The media has told the story that Frank was uninjured and was the only survivor due to jumping out the window, leaving his family behind. They made him look like some coward who bailed out and let his family die. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

"I doubt if he will ever recover from this tragedy. His burns will heal, but he never will. I can only imagine the ten thousand times he will ask himself if he could have done something differently."

Frank wants to thank the man who helped him.

"(I would like to) thank the gentleman that helped me kick the door open and call 911," he said. "Thank you very, very much."

A fund has been established at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union in Soldotna and Kenai for those who would like to help. Contributions may be made to the Frank Williams Hunt account.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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