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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Fire kills 4 in Lutheran home

Three men with developmental disabilities, including two wheelchair users, and a staff member died in a fire Aug. 21 at their group home in a Philadelphia suburb.

The home was run by Ken-Crest, a Lutheran affiliated social service agency.

Officials say Kim Hunsinger, 23, the resident manager, could easily have escaped. Instead she died of smoke inhalation trying to rescue the three men in her care.

The other victims, who also died from smoke inhalation, were John Brentnall, 57; Larry McConnell, 23; and Tom Taylor, 37.

"This tragedy shocked the agency," said William J. Nolan, executive director of Ken-Crest. "In our 91-year history we have never experienced such a tragedy."

Preliminary reports cite a kitchen gas stove as the cause of the fire. The possible malfunction of heat and smoke detectors is being investigated.

Ken-Crest met or exceeded all regulations for operating the home, said Jim McFalls, Ken-Crest director of residential services.

"This has really been a devastating situation for all of us," he said.

Ken-Crest has run a home at the site for 12 years. It serves more than 4,000 people with disabilities at 233 sites throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.


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