Man Dies in Jennings House Fire - KLFY News 10

Man Dies in Jennings House Fire

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 A Jefferson Davis Parish family is mourning the loss of a loved one following a house fire late Monday night. It happened in the 200 block of East Willis Street in Jennings.  Firefighters responded to a call around 11:30 p.m.  When they arrived, the home was already engulfed. Two of the three inside were able to escape with their lives, but a third individual, handicapped man who relied on a wheel chair to get around, never made it out. 

A charred wheelchair sits in front of the house that's been in the Riggs family for nearly 50 years.

The owner and mother of the victim, Margarite Riggs recalls the terrifying late night blaze.

"My ceiling was falling down and lights went out and you couldn't see anymore and he was choked up with smoke," Riggs said.  

She says the fire started in a bedroom and they tried to extinguish the flames with a garden hose, but it quickly spread. 

 The fire took her oldest son's life, 55-year-old Kenneth Ray Riggs, who was handicapped and wheelchair bound.

A family member tried to rescue Kenneth but was unable to because of the size of the fire.

Margarite says she was hysterical when she realized her son wasn't coming out. But because of the smoke and flames, she was helpless. 

"I said, ‘stop get ray out, get Kenny Ray out'," Riggs said. "I was hollering.  That's all I could say." 

And neighbors were shocked to learn of the tragedy. Angela Brown, Ethelee Drew, and Diana Gordon remember a man who would ride around the neighborhood, keeping everyone company. 

Brown said, "when I came down here and seen (it), I cried because it is a tragedy."

"Oh (was he) funny? He would make you laugh," said Drew. "I'm going miss all that."  

"He teased everybody," said Gordon. "Everybody is going to miss him. The whole neighborhood, we're going to miss him."

And as the family tries to cope with the situation, Margarite remembers one of her son's best qualities.

"What I'll remember about him, he was very funny. He'd make you laugh. He was real good," said Riggs.  

State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning said they are working to identify the cause of the fire and provide the family with answers.

-Caroline Balchunas

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