A deadly fire engulfed the home of a Quakertown family early on Christmas morning, killing a father and two of his three young sons.
Eric King, 41, and his sons Patrick, 8, and Liam, 11, died in a fire believed to have been started by lights on the family’s Christmas tree. King’s eldest son, Brady, 13, and his wife, Kristin, were treated at an area hospital and released.
“From what we were told, Liam woke Brady and Kristin up and told them to get out of the house,” said Colleen Nimnaugh, King’s sister. “Then he, Eric and Patrick couldn’t make it.”
The Quakertown School District released a statement calling the news “devastating to the district community and the Quakertown area as a whole. Eric and Kristin are very active in the community and the kind of people who make this place a place to be.” special place to live and go to school.The district will set up a hotline for those who need help.
A GoFundMe created on their behalf, who had raised more than $300,000 by 9 p.m. Christmas, described the couple as high school sweethearts, “always smiling and full of positive spirits” – “the happiest people you’ve ever met”.
“You couldn’t help but love them,” organizer Kristin Randazzo wrote. The family’s two dogs also died in the fire, according to Randazzo’s post.
State and Quakertown police and fire departments did not respond to requests for information on Saturday.
“At this time we understand that we are looking at the Christmas tree which may have caught fire due to the Christmas lights on this Christmas tree,” Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree told CBS3.
Karen Hammerschmidt, who runs an organization called Quakertown Community Outreach, said she was at the scene overnight and neighbors in the house next door narrowly escaped. “She literally came out with the clothes on her back; her and her son and her dog, it’s a miracle they made it. The fire escalated within minutes.
More information was expected to be added to the GoFundMe site over the weekend on where donations of clothing and other essentials could be made.
Eric King worked alongside his father running a construction company, American Craftsmen Inc., and was an accomplished youth sports coach and family man.
Nimnaugh, who runs with Kristin King KM Fitness & Nutrition in Perkasie, described his brother, the eldest of four children, as protective, generous and understanding – “the best person in the room”.
King’s other sister, Sarah Thiel, added that he “was probably the best hug in the whole world. I think anyone who has ever met him can attest to that. He was just a nice person.
Of their nephews, Nimnaugh said: “Liam was free-spirited and strong and so, so smart. He could literally take anything apart and put it back together. He made things work that didn’t work. …Patrick was so nice. He was a cuddly little bunny. He especially loved his mother, so when he was with us even for one night, he always asked for her. He was the sweetest and always funny little boy.
All of the boys were athletes, and Eric King devoted many of his nights and weekends to the Quakertown Youth Baseball Association.
“He was very generous with his time. He was a beloved coach and there were a lot of people who wanted to be on his teams,” said Quakertown Youth Baseball President Mike Bianco. “He had fun with the kids and he always made sure the kids had fun.”
Matt Schill, who coached with King, said he was happily committed to ensuring his own children and those in the community had well-maintained grounds and a full coaching staff. “We complained all the time back and forth that we didn’t know how we were going to train all these teams and do all of this while running our businesses. We used to joke that we had a weekly conference call to complain about things we weren’t going to change.
Another friend and fellow trainer, Mike Harris, said he believed King died as he lived: he gave everything to protect his sons.
“He made so many sacrifices for the kids he coached and for his own family,” Harris said. “Knowing him and the kind of guy he was, I know he would never have tried to save his family. He would never have left that accommodation while this situation was going on. I’m sure he would have done anything to get everyone out.