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January 31, 2014

UPDATED with IDs: Camper fire kills two, third person in critical condition

VINEMONT — Cullman County law enforcement said a man and woman died and a second man suffered life-threatening injuries after a camper they were in caught on fire this afternoon at Cullman Campgrounds off Alabama Highway 157.

Sandra Lynn Mills, 58, of Moulton was pronounced dead at the scene of the fire. Erwin Dewayne Owens, 51, of Cullman died at UAB hospital and William Randall Mills, 54, of Moulton remains at UAB Trauma and Burn Center with life-threatening injuries. Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, South Vinemont and West Point volunteer firefighters, and the Alabama State Fire Marshall’s office were all at the scene of the fatal fire just outside Cullman’s city limits, authorities said.

Neighbors and witnesses reported hearing an explosion and said they saw two men flee from the residence as it became engulfed in flames.

“I pulled him from the edge of the trailer and beat the flames with the shirt I was wearing,” Mike Barker, a neighbor, said. “He was coherent and talking to me as I was trying to put the fire out, but he continued to smolder. The camper was fully engulfed and he told me his wife was still in the trailer. I wish I would have known before that because I would have went in and got her, but I couldn’t get in because of the flames.”

“We heard two pops, it kind-of sounded like aerosol cans exploding, but whatever exploded went all over them by the way their bodies were completely on fire,” another neighbor, Jerry Jordan, said. “After we put the fire on the men out, and we had to put one of them out again. When Mr. Rodgers [Cullman County Coroner Steve Rodgers] got there, he had to spray them down so they wouldn’t catch fire again.”

“The clothing that they were wearing was completely burnt off. They were basically naked and we covered them up with clothes and blankets,” Don Hunter, a nearby resident, said. “It was a scary thing. We just acted on the situation and tried to do the best we could. I was told their bodies were 80-85 percent burned.”

“I asked Randall if he knew Jesus and he told me he did,” Donna Jordan said. “I told him to call out to him for help and he said he would. They were conscious and talking to us the whole time. Their burns were really bad, but they knew what was going on.”

Owens lived at the residence. Sandra Mills was his sister and William Mills was his  brother-in-law visiting from Lawrence County.

Check back for updates as they become available.

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131,ext. 137.

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