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Covered windows made house an "oven' in fatal fire

Published Aug. 28, 2005

Plywood and burglar bars covering a home's windows turned it into a "convection oven" after a fire broke out before dawn Thursday, officials said. Four children and an adult died although the fire didn't reach the bedroom where they may have been sleeping.

The children's mother was spared because she was staying with a relative, having given birth days earlier, the children's uncle said. The baby was safe at the hospital.

The victims were Johnny Taylor, 15, Jonathon Taylor, 14, Ashley Taylor, 13, Sharania Taylor, 12, and the children's stepfather, Keenon Shannon, 26. It appears all died of smoke inhalation, Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Lt. Eugene Germain said.

Investigators said they think the fire, which began in the living room, was accidental and were trying to determine what sparked it. The plywood and burglar bars trapped the fire's heat, gas and smoke, said Lt. Eric Baum, a fire rescue spokesman.

The shutters and bars did not slow the entry of firefighters, who said they kicked in the front door.

Homestead, 25 miles south of Miami, was devastated by Hurricane Andrew 12 years ago. Some homeowners, anxious during hurricane season, have left up the shutters they put up weeks ago when the first hurricane in Florida this year threatened the area.

Leaving up shutters "poses a tremendous risk to occupants to not have a reliable means to get out of the house," Baum said.

Man dies after falling at Universal Orlando ride

ORLANDO _ A man awaiting a liver transplant died after he fell onto the tracks of a ride at Universal Orlando theme park.

Jose Valadez, 39, of Apopka, died Wednesday after surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center, a day after falling from the platform of the Revenge of the Mummy ride, said his wife, Paula Valadez.

It was unclear how Valadez fell. He hit his head on the tracks and afterward complained that his stomach hurt and he could not feel his leg, Orlando Fire Department Assistant Chief Greg Hoggatt said.

Universal park spokesman Tom Schroder said the ride did not malfunction and Valadez fell as he started to board it. It was the first major accident on the Mummy since it opened in May.

Paula Valadez said doctors told her they had to remove her husband's spleen, a surgery complicated by his having hepatitis C, a liver disease that had sent him in search of a healthy organ.

Last September, a woman died at a hospital after passing out on the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Four die when small plane crashes after takeoff

MILTON _ Four people were killed Thursday when a small plane crashed into a residential area shortly after takeoff from this Panhandle city, authorities said.

The single-engine Cessna took off at 10:06 a.m. from Peter Prince Airport, said Debbi Redfield, a spokeswoman at the Santa Rosa County Emergency Operating Center.

Witnesses said "the plane circled the airport and appeared to lose power," she said, and crashed into a neighborhood just off the runway. No one on the ground was hurt and no buildings damaged, she said.

The pilot had not filed a flight plan. Officials were trying to learn who owned the plane and the identities of the four adults aboard.

_ Wire reports