Anthony Price, left, 5, Jerry Brooks, 3, and Daniel Price, 5, celebrate the twins’ recent birthday.

A house fire that claimed the lives of two Muskogee boys Wednesday is likely to have been caused by one of the children playing with a candle.

The boys’ father, Antonio Brooks, 49, said he was in the bath when the youngest son, Jerry Brooks, 3, said his older brother was playing with a candle. Brooks said he was drying off and went to check on the children when he saw Daniel Price, 5, with something behind his back.

“I asked Daniel what he had, and he threw it into the corner by the sofa,” Brooks said. “I went to get the candle and the sofa was burning.”

Brooks said he sent both boys to his bedroom at the far end of the house while he tried, but failed, to extinguish the fire. At one point, Brooks said he opened the back door, causing a draft that further fueled the flames.

Brooks said when he headed back to the bedroom to get his children, he was struck by burning debris falling from the roof. Brooks said he ran outside and with the help of others knocked out the window to his bedroom, where the boys were supposed to be. He said he heard the boys hollering they were in another bedroom, so he ran around the corner to break out that window. Even then he could not find his sons.

He said firefighters found them hiding under a bed.

“The roof fell down, burned me and scared me,” Brooks said. “I regret letting that keep me from going back inside to get my boys.”

Muskogee Fire Marshal Toby Webb said Thursday that “just about everything he (Brooks) is saying has been consistent with what we are seeing at the scene. At this time, there is nothing suspicious.”

A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office in Tulsa said Daniel Price and Jerry Brooks died from smoke inhalation. The boys’ deaths were ruled accidental.

In a tragic turn of events, the two boys’ maternal grandmother was found dead Thursday morning in her home. Journey Leeworthy, a friend of the family, said Carla Baughman was found in her bed and could not be awakened.

“She was saying last night she wanted to be with her grandbabies,” Leeworthy said.

Baughman was transported Thursday to the medical examiner’s office in Tulsa, but the cause of her death has yet to be determined.

Counselors help Irving students

News of the deaths of Price and Brooks spread rapidly through the community and especially hit hard at Irving Elementary, where the twin Price brothers attended kindergarten.

Counselors, teachers and ministers spent Thursday morning helping Irving Elementary School students deal with the death of Daniel Price.

“Our staff is focused on caring for our students during this difficult time,” Irving Principal James Eberts said. “Families have called offering their help.”

Eberts said school officials are working to set up a central location for people who want to donate items to help Price’s family.

Irving School Counselor Kay Merrill said students are expressing their thoughts by signing a large sympathy card that will go to the Price family.

“Daniel was such a sweet boy, and he’ll always be in our hearts,” Merrill said. “The students have been affected by Daniel’s death.”

The Rev. Denver Callahan, pastor of Abiding Life Fellowship, was one of three Ministerial Alliance members sent to counsel the children. He said he was called Wednesday night to come to the school around 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

“The kids were all calm this morning,” Callahan said. “But it’s my experience that the impact will probably hit the kids about a week from now.”

Sandy Taber, a licensed clinical social worker with Green Country Behavioral Health Services, said students could have a delayed response to such trauma.

Taber would not go into specifics about how Green Country is helping the Irving students. However, she said the young age of Daniel’s classmates does impact how they would react.

“There might be some regression, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, separation anxiety,” she said. “We could come to expect difficult behaviors.”

She said some signs might manifest themselves as students get back into daily routines.

Muskogee Public Schools Public Relations Director Cindy Heupel said teachers also are prepared to help students in their classrooms.

“The staff will continue to work with students in the week to come,” she said.

Eberts said he is “deeply saddened by the loss of Daniel Price.”

“He will be sorely missed as part of the Irving family,” he said, adding that the school appreciates the help and outpouring of support the school has received.

Fund set up to defray costs

Leeworthy said she also is helping Shannon Price-Brooks, Baughman’s daughter and the mother of Daniel Price and Jerry Brooks, set up a memorial fund at Muskogee Federal Credit Union.

Tim McGee, children’s pastor at the First Assembly of God Church, said the church also is collecting donations for the family of the Price-Brooks children, who attended church there.

“The children had been riding the bus for a couple of months,” McGee said. “They were just really starting to get involved with the church, and they came to all the special events.”

McGee said several people have pitched in to help the family with clothing and food.

Funeral services for Daniel Price, Jerry Brooks and Carla Baughman are pending with Lescher-Millsap Funeral Home.

How to help

Cash donations for the family of two boys killed Wednesday in a house fire are being accepted by the Muskogee Federal Credit Union. Anyone wishing to donate should contact Barbara Zawaski at 683-3460 or make a donation at either of the bank’s branches at 1910 W. Shawnee Bypass or 3502 Chandler Road.

Donations of food, clothing, furniture or cash are being accepted by the First Assembly of God Church at 3100 Gulick St. Pastor Tim McGee said donations may be taken to the church between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

Reach D.E. Smoot at 918-684-2903 or Click Here to Send Email

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 918-684-2928 or Click Here to Send Email

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