Del City RV fire kills three children

Fire investigators are looking into a Del City RV fire that killed three children and sent their mother to the hospital.
BY ANN KELLEY akelley@opubco.com Modified: January 5, 2011 at 8:37 am •  Published: January 5, 2011

— Stephanie Dunham had no idea Tuesday what the fate of her children would be when she was taken from the fire that engulfed a motorhome in which her family had been staying.

In a frantic 911 call, Dunham tells a dispatcher the RV is “burning mad” and her three small children are inside. In almost the same breath, she's yelling out for anyone to help her.

“Oh my God, I hope they're alive,” Dunham screams over and over, until she's panting.

“I can't get my kids out. I can't get them out.”

Del City fire Maj. Brandon Pursell said when firefighters arrived, Dunham was in the yard and then whisked away in an ambulance so she could be treated for burns to her arms and neck. She was heavily sedated at the hospital, and it would be hours before family members would be able to tell her the children didn't survive.

Christopher L. Dunham Jr., 4, Crystal A. Dunham, 3, and Kailey A. Dunham, 1, died in the fire. Christopher's birthday would have been today.

The children's father, Christopher Dunham, was at work when the fire broke out, but he learned about his children's deaths at the fire scene.

Stephanie Dunham reported the fire at 3333 SE 16 about 11 a.m. There already was a heavy fire load inside the recreational vehicle when firefighters arrived about three minutes later, Pursell said.

“They tried to get a knock down of the flames and to rescue the children, but unfortunately they (the children) were overcome,” he said.

The RV was parked behind the modest frame home where the children's grandmother, Crystal Chappell, has lived since 1997.

Pursell said the family was staying in the RV while carpet was being laid and other work was being done in one of the bedrooms inside Chappell's home.

Investigators reported finishing their preliminary investigation Tuesday night.


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HOW TO HELP

Memorial fund

The Dunham Family Memorial Fund has been established at Oklahoma Employees Credit Union to help the victims' family with expenses. An OECU spokesman said donations can be made at any of the branches in the Oklahoma City metro area. For more information or branch locations, call 606-6328 or (877) 648-6328.

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