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Cause determined for Lenoir County fire that killed long-married couple

By Amanda Brannon
WCTI Staff
Published On: May 09 2013 09:21:33 AM CDT
Updated On: May 09 2013 07:45:36 PM CDT
CONTENTNEA NECK, LENOIR COUNTY -

Investigators said an electrical malfunction caused a mobile home fire that killed a Lenoir County husband and wife, who had been married for more than 60 years.

Hazel and Theodore Wilkes, 75 and 81 respectively, died in the fire at 6657 Skeeter Pond Road in the Contentnea Neck township, said Sheriff Christopher Hill. The scene is near Grifton. Fire crews said they got the call of the blaze just before 9 a.m. Thursday.

Another man, David Holton, was living with the Wilkeses, and went across the street to see a neighbor when the fire erupted, family friends said. The man had hoped to rescue the couple, but the smoke was too heavy.

“[I] feel like fainting. It hurts me in my heart because I was living with them,” Holton said.

"I can truly say that they was loving and caring people and they would give you their shirt off their back if they had to,” caretaker, Lynda Renteria said.

The elderly couple’s caregiver said they were battling their own health issues. Mr. Wilkes had recently had a stroke, and his wife used a walker to get around. Family and friends said it may have prevented them from getting out.

“I didn't see nothing except fire and smoke. People were trying to go in there but they couldn't get in there,” Holton said.

“I don't know what happened. My brother had just left, then went next door to my sister’s house and looked out the window and it already started,” Minnie Holton, a cousin of the victim’s said.

Yet, despite their health problems, none of their friends NewsChannel 12 talked with thought their story would end this way.

“I’m feeling very sad and, uh, nervous and [anxious]. I don't know. I’m just all emotional. I lost a loved one that was very close to me,” Minnie Holton said.

Renteria said the couple got married when Hazel was just 15-years-old and they have been together ever since for more than 60 years.

“She had great passion and love for her husband. Undying love, as we see today both of them died together," Renteria said.

The victims have one son and two grandchildren, according to friends. The son has been notified  and is driving to the scene from Raleigh, where he works.