“I started crying:” 5 children killed when fire breaks out during apparent sleepover in South Dakota

SPEARFISH, South Dakota — Tragedy in Spearfish, South Dakota after five children lost their lives in a fire Saturday, April 1st. The fire happened during what was believed to be a sleepover, and it’s left the community in shock.

“It was very scary. You could smell it — and the noises were probably the scariest part. You could hear people screaming. You could hear the firefighters yelling. You could still hear smoke alarms going off and the fire popping,” Claire Ringelspaugh said.

A quiet night quickly changed after Ringelspaugh looked out the window and saw flames across the street.

“It just gave you this really heart-wrenching — like your heart was sinking down. It was not good,” Ringelspaugh said.

Flames consumed the home off of Ames Street in Spearfish, South Dakota — and a bad situation turned horrific when witnesses learned five children between the ages of six and 11 years old were trapped inside.

“I started crying,” Ringelspaugh said.

On Saturday morning, the community woke up to the tragic news, as the investigation continues.

“Everything is just quiet. It’s very quiet,” Ringelspaugh said.

Reports of the fire came in around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. Firefighters arrived to find the multi-family home fully-engulfed in flames.

“They did what they could. But with the volume of fire there was just no way they could get in to perform a search,” Chief Mark Sachara with the Spearfish Fire Department said.

Crews battled the blaze for more than an hour before it was extinguished.

“It was a stubborn fire. It was difficult to get to because the roof had already started to collapse in the center. We just couldn’t put firefighters inside,” Chief Sachara said.

Some of the children were upstairs, and an unknown number of adults who were inside were taken to the hospital, but their condition is unknown.

Officials are working with the American Red Cross to help the families involved.

“Someone once said from the horror of tragedy comes the best of humanity, and what we saw this morning is an unspeakable horror. But some extreme professionalism from our law enforcement, absolutely from our firefighters and our medical personnel,” Lt. Boyd Dean with the Spearfish Police Department said.

Officials are still working to identify the victims. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“Truly a tragedy that’s affected the community, especially a small community like Spearfish, but the support this morning has been truly amazing,” Captain Sachara said.