New Castle News

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December 24, 2012

Top 10 Stories, Number 8: Shenango Township fire claims mother, daughter

NEW CASTLE — The efforts of firefighters and a neighbor weren’t enough to save a woman and her daughter early this year.

Lisa Oliver and her 8-year-old daughter, Katherine May Thomas, perished in a blaze during the early morning hours of Jan. 20 at their home at 2012 Moravia St.

Another daughter, Amber McClaren, 11, was able to escape the flames, telling investigators her mother had pushed her out a window to safety.

Amber sustained burns to her head, face and hands.

The tragedy that claimed two lives is listed as one of the New Castle News’ top stories of the year.

It was a bitterly cold night when the fire broke out at the home around 1:30 a.m. Shenango Township Fire Chief David Rishel described conditions — 14 degrees with winds up to 20 mph that fanned flames, making it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

The flames prevented firefighters from entering the structure to attempt any rescue. Deputy Lawrence County Coroner Richard Johnson said the bodies of Oliver and her daughter were found on the first floor of the home, amid the rubble of the upper floor that had collapsed.

Firefighters from five departments — South New Castle Borough, New Castle and Shenango, Slippery Rock and Taylor townships — responded to the alarm. Crews remained at the scene for about six hours.

Meanwhile, neighbor Steve Jurina described to The News his efforts to save the family, kicking in a door of the burning home and trying to enter several times, only to be driven back by the intense heat and smoke.

Oliver had served as a paramedic. Her husband, Hector Oliver, was at work at Jameson Hospital when the fire started.

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