Sisters, 8 and 5, Killed in 'Tragic' Ill. House Fire That Also Injured Teen Brother, 3 Others

Two young sisters were killed and four of their family members were injured after a late-night fire sent their Illinois home up in flames.

Elizabeth, 8, and Autumn Evans, 5, both died of smoke inhalation during the Dec. 10 fire in Ingleside, the Lake County Coroner’s Office said in a release obtained by PEOPLE.

The girls’ 17-year-old brother Cory was also injured, as was their mother Katie and grandparents Scott and Dori, according to a GoFundMe page.

As of Sunday, Katie, Scott and Dori remained hospitalized at the Loyola University Medical Center, with Katie in serious but stable condition and her parents in critical but stable condition, the Daily Herald reported.

Cory, meanwhile, was reportedly released from Advocate Condell Medical Center on Saturday morning.

Elizabeth and Autumn’s father Teig Prickett, who was reportedly not at the home when the blaze broke out, shared a statement on GoFundMe thanking his community for their support amid tragedy.

“I am not ready to talk about my precious girls because it hurts too much and I am trying to keep it together for my family,” he wrote. “I will truly grieve soon, but for now I must stay strong.”

A makeshift memorial was arranged outside the house after the blaze, and drew many of the children’s friends, who came to leave things like notes and balloons, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“I wrote a letter to them,” said fourth-grader Vivianna Paz. “I wrote I hope they’re having a good time in heaven together.”

High schooler Anthony Falcone also went to the memorial, and said he is Cory’s best friend.

“This place is like a second home to me. I’m here all the time,” Falcone told the Tribune. “Those girls had so much energy. They were fun to be around.”

The Daily Herald reported that investigators this weekend were still searching for the fire’s cause, though Fox Lake Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Ed Lescher said preliminary reports did not indicate anything suspicious.

“Investigators could not find an exact cause for the fire starting because everything in the room of origin was too badly burned to narrow it down to one specific cause,” Lescher told the Lake County News-Sun. “The investigators need to finalize a few things.”

He said that firefighters responded to the blaze just before 11 p.m., and found Cory, Katie and Scott suffering from burns and smoke inhalation on the front lawn, the Tribune reported.

Firefighters entered the home and were able to rescue Dori on the first floor, but the flames were too intense to go any further. Elizabeth was reportedly later found in an upstairs bedroom, and Autumn in a hallway.

“It was definitely a rough one,” Lescher told the outlet. “An entire family was affected by it. This was tragic.”

The family’s dog Abby and cats Apple and Candace also died in the blaze, according to the GoFundMe, which has raised nearly $200,000 for the surviving family members.

PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to provide avenues for our readers to pay it forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about Causes — hubs that bring charities, individuals, donors and corporate partners together to help people in need — visit GoFundMe.

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