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Family of Altoona fire victim speaks out
By: Lauren Hensley
ALTOONA, Pa.-- Family members are speaking out after their relative was killed and another injured in an early morning blaze in Altoona Saturday.
Officials said the woman killed was on oxygen and the oxygen tanks inside the home contributed to the intensity of the blaze. Officials are not releasing the woman's name but family members said they simply called her Gram.
"She wasn't afraid to voice her opinion but she had a big heart," granddaughter Lyndzi Leizabeth Lauritsen said.
Lauritsen is one of Gram's seven grandchildren Gram had. Lauritsen began living with her grandparents at their 7TH Street home to help care the aging couple. Lauritsen said Gram was on oxygen. When the blaze erupted Lauritsen said she, she her boyfriend and dog survived by jumping out the second story-story window. Her grandfather also managed to escape, but soon realized his beloved wife was still inside.
"She actually had to grab my dad because my dad wanted to go back in, it was totally engulfed and explosions were happening," Terrie Villani, Gram's daughter said.
"I had to explain to him that he didn't hear her screaming that she was gone and we couldn't lose him, too. To see him on the corner just bawling and just saying, 'Save my wife,' when he knew there was nothing he could do," Lauritsen said.
The couple has been married for 40 years, the family said. Even neighbors took notice of the deep love they shared.
"They were a very loving couple, he did everything for her and it is a shame to see this," neighbor Sandra Newberry said.
Family members said they are heading to Pittsburgh to be with Gram's husband and as he is recovering they hope the house will come down.
"This is honestly going to be where his wife died and I just hope they tear it down before he comes back home," Villani said.
Family members are trying to set-up up some a collection to help survivor Grandpa get back on his feet after the blaze.