Mitchell boy dies from smoke inhalation after fireJaxon Sehnert, 3, dies Saturday, brother remains hospitalized following Friday night fire
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
One of two boys who suffered smoke inhalation in a house fire in Mitchell Friday night has died.
Jaxon Sehnert, 3, died at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, according to Mitchell Public Safety Director Lyndon Overweg.
His brother Jacob Sehnert, 5, remains hospitalized at Avera McKennan, Overweg said.
“He’s still on a ventilator but he’s expected to make a pretty good recovery,” Mitchell Fire Marshal Marius Laursen said.
The boys’ mother, Jessica Sehnert, was treated for smoke inhalation at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell Friday night before she accompanied her sons to the Sioux Falls hospital.
Their father, Jordon Sehnert, who just returned to Mitchell in March after a military deployment to Iraq and Kuwait, was not home at the time of the fire.
Two men who worked to rescue the boys from the burning, smoke-filled house at 222 W. Sixth Ave. were treated at the Mitchell hospital as well. Toby Kippes and Clinton McQuistion were two of several people who responded to Jessica Sehnert’s cries for help.
Both suffered from smoke inhalation and were treated at the hospital Friday night and Saturday morning before they were released.
On her Facebook page, Jessica Sehnert gave her thanks to those who responded to the fire:
“Would like to express my thanks to all that responded Friday, you guys are amazing and thank you so much. Also a thanks to my wonderful neighbors and the bystanders that helped me and attempted to get my boys out, u guys did amazing with helping the firefighters to get mine and Jordon’s boys out. Thank You.”
The fire was reported at 10:27 p.m. Friday. The house was engulfed in smoke when neighbors heard Jessica Sehnert cry out for help.
Kippes, a Mitchell native who lives in Garretson, was back home for his brother’s wedding on Saturday.
He said he was talking with Trevor Wilson, who lives next to Kippes’ father Tom Kippes on the 600 block of North Duff Street, and McQuistion, Trevor Black and Dylan Van Bockel.
The four Mitchell Technical Institute students had grilled out and were enjoying a mild night outside around a backyard fire when they heard the shouts.
“We had just come back from rehearsal dinner at Signatures and were talking to neighbors and I heard a blood-curdling scream and took off running,” Kippes said Saturday.
“The mother was out on the roof of the front porch screaming that her boys were still inside,” he said.
The men all responded and immediately searched for a ladder while several 911 calls were made to Mitchell dispatch.
Kippes said he went up the ladder with McQuistion and Black. After deciding to break open a window, they quickly made a plan. McQuistion covered his face and head with his shirt and was helped inside the room.
“They were holding onto my feet and trying to make a chain so I wouldn’t get lost in the smoke,” McQuistion said Sunday.
He said the room was filled with dark smoke and while he thinks he felt a foot, he could not locate the brothers.
“It was just covered, that whole room,” McQuistion said. “I couldn’t find him.”
Kippes then covered his face and head with his shirt and reached inside in an attempt to find the boys. Again, he could not see anything or find the brothers. Both men said they were overcome by the smoke and had to go outside for air.
Firefighters were on the scene at 10:31 p.m., four minutes after the first call. They used the ladder that the volunteer rescuers had placed against the house and scrambled to the second floor.
“The first arriving crews entered the house and were able to get the kids out using thermal imaging cameras,” Fire Division Capt. Steve Nedved said Saturday.
McQuistion and Kippes helped when the boys were lifted out of the room, and tried to help them breathe. Black came down off the porch roof when the fire crew arrived while Wilson and Van Bockel helped as well from the ground.
“After five seconds a fireman handed a kid to me,” Kippes said. “I held his bottom in my left hand and his throat in my right and he took two deep breaths.”
“Then I was handed the other one,” he said. “He took one breath and went completely limp.”
McQuistion said he carried Jaxon Sehnert to the lawn and was prepared to give him CPR when an ambulance arrived. Emergency responders then took the boys and told the two men to sit down and take some oxygen.
“I was just about ready to pass out,” Kippes said. “I kind of regained my strength.”
Kippes was at Avera Queen of Peace until after 2 a.m. Saturday as medical personnel worked to clear his lungs and bring his heart rate down.
McQuistion, 20, received the same treatment, and was also treated for cuts on his right hand on the broken glass in the window.
He said there is a simple reason he responded to the cries for help: “Just kind of went with it,” McQuistion said. “I was caught up in the moment. It’s not anything like you feel like a hero; in reality, it’s like doing the right thing.
“I’ve got a 3-year-old niece. I know if the mother was panicking, I would hope someone would do that for me,” he said.
Kippes, 34, said he thought of his own children after the incident was over.
“I have five kids myself,” he said. “I tell you what, if I was in that situation, I hope someone would do it for me.”
At 10:50 p.m., the fire was under control, Nedved said. Fire personnel remained at the scene for about three hours, he said. About 20 firefighters responded, including some from Mount Vernon who responded to a call for assistance.
Nedved said no damage estimate was available over the weekend.
“Going to be pretty extensive smoke damage all through the house,” he said. “Little bit of fire damage in the back of the house.”
Laursen said the fire started in the back of the house near the washer and dryer. The dryer hadn’t been used since Thursday night, he said, but it appears the fire may have started there.
Jessica Sehnert and her sons were in bed in the same room. They went to bed about 9:30 p.m. Friday, she told investigators.
An hour later, she was awakened by the house being filled with thick, black, choking smoke, Laursen said. She was able to get one of the windows open and went on the porch roof to scream for help.
The fire marshal said while he can’t and would not advise people to enter a burning or smoke-filled house without the proper equipment, there’s no doubt in his mind the men who rushed to help are heroes.
“That was really brave and amazing,” he said.
There were no smoke detectors in the house, and Laurson and Overweg urged people to check to see if they have working detectors in their homes. If not, they are relatively cheap, they said.
The Mitchell Fire Division will provide free detectors to anyone who requests one. Call 995-8445 if you need one.
This is the second fatal incident in Mitchell involving a young child in less than a month. Iszabella Jean “Bella” Morgan, 9, was killed in a two-vehicle car crash on March 24. Morgan’s mother, Jeanie Morgan, like Jessica Sehnert, works at LifeQuest.
McQuistion said he has tried to go back about his normal schedule, although he said people keep telling him he’s a hero. He said he doesn’t feel that way.
He has stayed in contact with Jessica Sehnert, and she told him Jaxon had died.
Kippes donned a tuxedo Saturday and attended his brother Bert’s wedding. Perhaps fittingly, he was the best man.