Friends, neighbors identify fire victim; fundraising for family under wayFriends and family members told The Daily Republic that Cheryl Roop, 59, of Mitchell, died early Saturday morning when she was trapped inside her trailer home on West Second Avenue in Mitchell. The Mitchell Public Safety Department had not yet officially identified the victim.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
As volunteers sifted through the charred remains of a trailer house Sunday morning, they remembered the woman who lost her life.
Friends and family members told The Daily Republic that Cheryl Roop, 59, of Mitchell, died early Saturday morning when she was trapped inside her trailer home on West Second Avenue in Mitchell. The Mitchell Public Safety Department later confirmed the identity of the victim.
“Cheryl was an outspoken, let-you-know-what-she-wanted type of person, but she was just so friendly and talked to everyone,” said Cynthia Hire, a family friend and neighbor.
Mitchell dispatch received a call at 4:06 a.m. Saturday about a trailer fire at 900 W. Second Ave., Lot 43. When firefighters arrived, the trailer was engulfed in flames. The trailer and several sheds around the property are considered a total loss.
“Anytime we have a fatality, it’s a tragic incident, and our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” said Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg.
According to Hire, Roop’s daughter and 4-month-old grandson Judd were also in the trailer when the fire started but escaped and were treated and released for smoke inhalation at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell.
“They are at a hotel now and are doing good,” Hire said.
A person police described as a middle-aged man was also in the home at the time of the fire; he, too, escaped and was treated at Avera Queen of Peace.
Roop suffered a stroke at least a year ago and had trouble walking, which led friends to believe she had trouble getting out when the fire started.
“She was handicapped, so it was hard to get around and obviously it would be hard for her to get out if there was a fire,” Hire said, noting Roop could walk but not well. “Where it might take someone a couple of minutes to get up and get out of the house, it would take her a half-hour.
“She would have to take one step and take a break, and take another step and another break.”
Hire was one of five people collecting scrap metal from the site of the fire Sunday to help raise money for the family.
“Everything that goes out to the junkyard will go to the family,” she said. “We are all volunteers here trying to make some money for them. They don’t have a lot of money, so when they lose everything like this, it’s very hard.”
Kenneth Erickson, another neighbor and family friend, was also helping Sunday morning.
“It’s a tragic incident,” he said. “We didn’t know if there was anyone in there when we woke up, and it’s just a horrible thing.”
Erickson said he woke up from the sound of an explosion and got his wife and child out of his house and to a safe distance early when the blaze broke out. Several small explosions took place during the fire, when propane tanks, fuel tanks and tires that were housed in a storage shed on the property exploded.
As the volunteers collected metal, the Roops’ four cats milled around the property climbing on the charred ruins of the trailer home. According to Hire, the family got out with very few, if any, possessions.
“The baby lost of all his stuff. There was just nothing left.”
Hire said the family is looking for a new place to stay and taking donations.
“We are just trying to help them so they can get back on their feet, and help have a funeral for Cheryl,” Hire said. “We’re trying to get them a place to say and some clothes. They lost everything. It’s the least we can do.”
This was the second trailer house fire in Mitchell in as many weekends. On Sept. 22, a fire at 1116 E. First Ave., Lot 34, was reported around 6:30 a.m. and destroyed the home there. No one was injured in that blaze.
It was also the second fire to claim a life in Mitchell this year. On April 21, 3-year-old Jaxon Sehnert died of smoke inhalation after a fire struck his family’s home at 222 W. Sixth Ave.
The cause of Saturday’s blaze is still under investigation but, according to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety, it is considered non-suspicious in nature.
The Mitchell Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshal’s Office, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the state Division of Criminal Investigation are involved in the ongoing investigation.
An autopsy of Roop is planned Monday.