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Fatal fire not arson, officials say

Fire officials are still investigating the cause of a Mount Sterling apartment fire that killed a teenage girl and her three young cousins Wednesday.

Visitation for the four will be Monday in Mount Sterling, with the funeral Tuesday.

Jim Carroll, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, said investigators have determined that the fire was not intentionally set.

"We don't believe that it was a suspicious fire," Carroll said.

Kentucky State Police and the state fire marshal's office are both investigating.

Shirley Dawn Rothwell, 17, was baby-sitting Brandon Elam, 3, Wayne Elam, 5, and Timmy Elam, 7, when the fire started before 11 a.m. Wednesday. Neighbors pulled the four children from the fire before fire crews got there. The four were taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Sterling, where emergency room staff pronounced them dead.

The three boys were with Shirley Dawn in her home, family friends said. The three boys lived across the street.

Montgomery County Coroner Wally Johnson said Friday that an autopsy done Thursday showed that all four died of smoke inhalation.

The Mount Sterling community is gathering donations to help the two families offset funeral and burial costs.

Hopey Newkirk, director of pupil personnel for the Montgomery County school system, where two of the boys were students, said the school system is asking people to send donations to Herald & Stewart Home for Funerals, 1002 Woodford Drive, Mount Sterling, Ky. 40353.

Checks should be made directly to Herald & Stewart, Newkirk said.

About one-third of the estimated $20,000 funeral expense had been donated as of Friday afternoon.

Newkirk said someone from the community has donated four burial plots for the children.

Visitation for the four cousins will be 5 to 9 p.m. Monday at First Baptist Church, 925 Woodford Drive, Mount Sterling. The funeral will be 1 p.m. Tuesday, also at First Baptist Church.

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