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South County Fire: Family Speaks Out After Tragic Death, Says "Our Lives Changed Forever"

fire-crime-scene.jpg
via KMOV (Channel 4)
Scene of the fire.
Update, 8:40 a.m: St. Anthony's Medical Center has just announced that Georgette Gapsch, grandmother to the late T.J., and great-grandmother to Mia and Macy, has died from her injuries in Tuesday's tragic fire.

Original post: Yesterday morning, we reported on the devastating south St. Louis County house fire that left Terry Gapsch, 38, dead, and two others in his family in critical condition.

Now, the Gapsch family is speaking out about the incident offering some details on how the tragedy unfolded -- and how they are coping.

"Early this morning, our lives changed forever. It will be our belief in God, our love of family and our gratitude to the Mehlville Fire Protection District that will get us through this painful day and the weeks and months to come," the family says in a statement sent out by St. Anthony's Medical Center.

As we reported, at around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, St. Louis County police and firefighters responded to the house fire after, cops say, a thirteen-year-old girl escaped and ran to a neighbor's house asking for help. The girl, identified as Mia, told police that three other people -- all her relatives -- were still inside the home. Terry, Mia's father, was pronounced dead and firefighters helped rescue his grandmother Georgetta Gapsch, 79, who police say is in critical condition. Terry's younger daughter, Macy, eleven, was also rescued in critical condition. Mia, police say, suffered minor injuries.

In the statement, the family says that Terry, known as T.J., helped Mia escape and died after returning to try and save the others.

T.J.'s uncle, Georgette's son and a firefighter with the Mehlville Fire Protection District, was one of the first on the scene and helped rescue Georgette and Macy, the family says.

south-county-fire-location.jpg
via Google Maps
St. Simon Court in south county.

The family emphasizes the importance of fire safety: "We also implore parents to talk to their children about fire safety, having a family plan and taking it seriously. We are so proud of Mia and her quick thinking to get help."

The fire is under investigation, but officials believe it may have originated in the basement of the home on the 10005 block of St. Simon Court, which is just off of Tesson Ferry Road in Concord (in south county, adjacent to Mehlville).

Here's the family's statement in full:

STATEMENT FROM THE GAPSCH FAMILY

"Early this morning, our lives changed forever. It will be our belief in God, our love of family and our gratitude to the Mehlville Fire Protection District that will get us through this painful day and the weeks and months to come.

It's our understanding that, sometime this morning, a fire broke out in Georgette Gapsch's house. In that house were Georgette, 79, her grandson Terry (T.J.), 38, and his two daughters (Mia, 13, and Macy, 11).

We believe T.J. awakened Mia and guided her out of the house. She then ran to a neighbor's house for help. It's our understanding T.J. went back into the house and tried to rescue Macy.

T.J.'s uncle (Georgette's son), a firefighter with the Mehlville Fire Protection District, was one of the first on the scene. He, along with the brave men and women of the Mehlville Fire Protection District and neighboring fire districts, help pull Georgette and Macy from the burning house while trying to distinguish the fire. T.J. died while trying to save the daughters he loved so dearly.

We would like to publicly thank the members of the Mehlville Fire Protection District, the Affton Fire Protection District and the officers of the St. Louis County Police Department who worked so hard and selflessly to help save our family members.

We also implore parents to talk to their children about fire safety, having a family plan and taking it seriously. We are so proud of Mia and her quick thinking to get help. Our focus now is to help, support and love these girls."

And here is some footage from the scene via KMOV-TV (Channel 4):

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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