Authorities say lightning probably caused fatal fire in Southern Illinois

Monday, September 25, 2006

SPILLERTOWN, Ill. -- Lightning from thunderstorms that swept through Southern Illinois may have caused a house fire that killed two women, authorities said.

Roberta Russell, 89, and Lucille Stroud, 73, died from injuries sustained in a fire early Saturday at their home in the village of Spillertown, said Williamson County Coroner Mike Burke.

An investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal's office concluded the home may have been struck by lightning, said Williamson County Fire Chief Don Swiatkowski.

"The fire had a good start on it before anyone saw it," Swiatkowski said. "It's a very unfortunate situation."

Stormy weather blamed for 11 deaths in the Midwest and South subsided on Sunday, though flood warnings remained in effect for parts of Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri.

High winds that hit Illinois destroyed three mobile homes and a log home in southern Illinois' Massac County, with about a dozen homes damaged in Jackson County, said Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson.

In the town of Raddle in Jackson County, winds destroyed Melvin Stueve's barn and grain bins and tore a hole in his roof.

"It's a mess," Stueve said. "Everything's gone except the house."

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