LITTLETON, Colo. – Three bodies have been recovered from a house that burned when a fire erupted during a party early Sunday.
The fire also severely injured one of two survivors, destroyed the house and damaged two others. One survivor was unharmed.
Officials had feared that up to six people may have been trapped inside the house that burned around 3:30 a.m. West Metro Fire Protection District spokeswoman Cindy Matthews says everybody but the three people, two males and a female, were accounted for.
Two bodies were discovered at about 11:30 a.m., about 8 hours after the fire was reported, while the third body was found at about 12:30 p.m.
The survivor suffered burns to 70 percent of his body. Names have not been released.
Stuart Buckley, 37, lives across the street and saw the fire. He dialed 911 then went outside where he found the injured man a few houses down, his hair burned off, burns on his legs, torso and arms and still smoldering.
"His belt was still on fire or glowing from it," said Buckley, still shaken from the experience hours after. Unable to render aid because of the severity of the injuries, he comforted the man until paramedics arrived.
The house was reduced to smoldering ruins, a few hardy studs ringing its concrete foundation like crooked, blackened matchsticks.
Firefighters had to wait more than six hours for the remains to cool before they could begin their search of the rubble. Wearing air tanks and protective clothing, firefighters slowly combed the house from one corner to the other.
"There's nothing left of the house," Matthews said. "They're standing in a pile of rubble."
Buckley and other neighbors calling 911 reported booms and loud popping sounds, and said the house exploded but Matthews said firefighters have been unable to determine what happened.
Steve Lesser, 45, who lives a couple of houses down looked out his window, saw the fireball and thought it was too early for the sun to be coming out before he realizing his neighbor's house was burning.
Buckley said he earlier had stopped by the house for a beer at a small gathering of about a dozen people. He said the atmosphere at the house, which was occupied by a father and son, usually resembled a frat house, with people coming and going.
"If I had stayed there I would have been dead," he said.
Families of those missing were notified and had made their way to the scene before firefighters discovered the bodies.
Firefighters arriving within minutes of the phone call were told of the people inside. Matthews said it was unclear how the people were trapped inside, whether they tried to escape but couldn't or were somehow incapacitated.