Woodford County

Woodford County house fire kills two children

The fire that killed Lidia Graham, 7, and her brother Joseph Graham, 3, also injured two other family members.
The fire that killed Lidia Graham, 7, and her brother Joseph Graham, 3, also injured two other family members. Greg Kocher | Staff

NONESUCH — The mother of two children who died early Friday in a Woodford County house fire said they were "full of energy and always going."

Amber Graham said her daughter, Lidia Faith Graham, 7, a second-grader at Southside Elementary School, and her son, Ronnie Joseph "Jo Jo" Graham, 3, died in the fire at a tenant farm house at 2204 Cummins Ferry Road, about 11 miles south of Versailles. Woodford County Coroner Steve Ward said they both died of smoke inhalation.

"They liked to play outside all the time," Amber Sutherland Graham said in a telephone interview.

Graham said another son, Donnie Graham Jr., 5, and her brother, Robert Sutherland, 14, escaped the fire and were taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in Lexington. Donnie Graham suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his face, ears and shoulders, but he is improving, Amber Graham said.

Robert was treated and released. He will stay with an uncle near Clifton in western Woodford County, she said.

The cause of the fire is not immediately known, said Russ Allen, a deputy state fire marshal who was at the scene Friday morning. A Kentucky State Police investigator also was there.

Allen said Versailles police will conduct interviews to find out more about the fire. Woodford County Fire Chief Bennie Green said investigators hope to pin down a cause of the fire by early next week.

The fire started at midnight in the rear of the two-story, four-bedroom house that is owned by Amber's father, Billy Sutherland. The roof of the house had a gaping hole where the fire had burned through.

The fire happened while Amber, 26, and her boyfriend, Eddie Poole, 35, had gone to Frankfort to pick up her mother, Catherine Curtis Sutherland, from work.

Robert was asleep downstairs but heard a "cracking noise" and awoke to see "a bunch of smoke" in the house, Amber Graham said.

Donnie had already come downstairs, she said. Robert tried to go upstairs to retrieve Lidia and Ronnie Jo, but "the flames were so bad he couldn't make it up there," Amber Graham said.

Robert called 911 on a cell phone outside the house, she said. Later, he and Donnie went across the road to a neighbor's house.

Amber said she learned of the fire when her father called her. When she arrived, "I was hoping my kids would be at the hospital safe, but they weren't," she said.

She said Lidia "was real good in school. She'd ask her teacher a lot of questions."

Amber said she and Poole planned to stay in a motel in Lexington. They had sought assistance with clothes and the motel stay from an American Red Cross chapter.

Woodford County Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said grief counselors were available for students and staff.

"We do have extra people on site today to provide any additional support that may be needed for students and staff," Hawkins said.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

This was the second tragedy in four months for Amber Graham and her family. Her sister, Heather Sutherland, 20, and two other people died in August from injuries in a car crash on McCracken Pike in Woodford County.