NINEVEH, Ind. - Johnson County authorities are trying to pinpoint the cause of a devastating apartment fire in Nineveh Friday night that killed two children and critically injured their mother, who tried desperately to save them.
Officials estimate the fire began around 5 p.m. on Friday. Neighbors said the woman, identified as Sirena Slusher-Abbott, was in the apartment she shares with her husband, who was at work, when the apartment caught fire. Their three children were also at home.
Neighbors say they tried to help, but the fire spread too quickly.
"I backed out. I just got scared and then I saw Sirena and her hair was burnt and her face was black," a neighbor of the victim told RTV6.
Abbott's 5-year-old daughter Allie was able to escape and go to a neighbor's for help while her mother tried saving her 18-month-old daughter Haley and 6-month-old son John Ryan. Unfortunately, she was badly burned and eventually overcome by smoke.
The children's bodies were recovered by fire crews Saturday morning.
A neighbor whose daughter was at the victims' apartment before the fire began said there were candles burning in the living room, but it's unknown if that was the cause. Investigators said they don't believe it was a criminal act.
"We don't believe this will be a criminal investigation," said Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox. "This could be something along the lines of an electrical fire."
Abbott was taken to the burn unit at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis. Investigators say it could be weeks before they determine a cause for the fire.