WEEPING WATER, Neb. - Smoke still clung to the countryside Friday morning as authorities prepared for the grim task of connecting the dots in a tragic puzzle. Six people died in a Cass County house fire. Investigators search for answers.
There was no initial indication of how this happened.
While formal identification of the victims is still pending, the family tells us they appear to have been Mike and Michelle Speer and their four young girls: Elli; Emma; Adilynn and Anniston.
According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, a relative who lives next door to the family called 911 close to midnight Thursday. That relative said the house was burning and people were inside.
By the time crews arrived the home was engulfed in flames. Rescue personnel were unable to get in. By the time the fire was under control, the home had been burned to the ground.
Those who knew the family said the Speer's were nice people and good friends to everyone they met.
Shelby Mason was Elli's softball coach. She said, “I just thought it was unreal that a whole family could pass away but at least they're all together now." She called Ellie, “one of the nicest girls I’ve ever met.”
Family friend Ron Dawson told us, “The daughters were the cutest, sweetest little girls you could ever think of.”
Crews from eight agencies joined forces to battle the fire. Investigators tell us there was little they could do. There is nothing left of the house.
Authorities will continue the search for a cause Friday while family and community grieve.
RaeAnna Snipes, at the Firehouse Grille, told us, “You don’t really expect something like this to happen. It’s a small community. But it does.”
Conestoga Elementary School opened their doors Thursday night to provide support for families struggling to cope with the loss. They welcomed parents and students who needed help telling their children.
Conestoga also recommended ways for parents to talk to their children about this tragedy. They said to be open and honest with them, and answer any and all questions they had.
They also encouraged students to come to school on Friday and to keep things as routine as possible. The school said to remind children that the adults are there to help them with their feelings.
Our sister station WOWT 6 News briefly spoke to Michelle's mother Thursday evening. She said she's thankful for everyone's thoughts and prayers during this time.