GREENVILLE, Kentucky — A western Kentucky town prepared Saturday to bury a mother and eight of her children who died in a house fire.
Members of the Watson family died Jan. 30 when police say a combustible material accidentally fell against an electric heater in a bedroom on a sub-freezing night in the community of Depoy near Greenville, Kentucky
Killed were 35-year-old LaRae "Nikki" Watson, 15-year-old Madison Watson, 14-year-old Kaitlyn Watson, 13-year-old Morgan Watson, 9-year-old Emily Watson, 8-year-old Samuel Watson, 6-year-old Raegan Watson and 4-year-old twin brothers Mark and Nathaniel Watson.
The father, 36-year-old Chad Watson, and 11-year-old Kylie Watson, escaped the blaze and were at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee The funeral service is being held at the Muhlenberg County High School's west campus Saturday afternoon.
Before the start of the funeral, a steady stream of people filed into the high school's gymnasium, as a line of nine white hearses sat empty outside the building.
Lisa West, who works at a bank in Greenville, described the sight of the nine white closed caskets elevated on a stage inside the gym.
"It doesn't look real," she said.
The fire broke out in the single-family house just west of Greenville, which is about 130 miles southwest of Louisville in the state's western coal fields. Greenville had a population of just more than 4,000 people in 2010, census figures show.
Chad Watson told first responders his wife and other children were still inside, but the rescuers couldn't get into the house.
Police said the fact that all the victims were near each other could be an indication that they were trying to escape through a window, but investigators aren't sure. The mother and children were all found together; the ninth person was found between 10 and 15 feet away.
The fire marked Kentucky's third blaze in a little more than a year that has killed five or more people. Last January, four children under 6 and their father were killed in a blaze near Pikeville in eastern Kentucky that also severely burned their mother. Authorities said the home lacked a smoke detector.
In March, a fire at a home in the southern Kentucky community of Gray killed a young couple and five children, the oldest of whom was 3.
Muhlenberg County was featured in the 1971 John Prine song "Paradise," about the impact of coal mining and what happens to the area around the Green River once the mining ends. The song references Peabody Energy Corporation and a now-defunct town called Paradise.