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Cole County family loses a loved one after house fire Thursday

Friday, a community is stepping up to help a local family through an unimaginable series of tragedies.

Thursday around 4 p.m., firefighters were called to a house fire at 14106 Route V which is southwest of Russellville.

Shirley Gilpin, one of the homeowners, said she was in the house with her nine and twelve-year-old sons when she smelled something like burning matches. She walked into one of the boys’ bedrooms and found the mattress in flames.

Chris Cinotto, Russellville/Lohman Fire Protection District: “Crews tried to make entry through the front door, couldn’t get in through the house so they actually had to back out of the house and go in through the window to the room on fire and got in and got it knocked down pretty fast. But the entire house suffered smoke and heat damage. It’s for the most part a complete loss for the family.”

As if losing everything in a house fire wasn’t bad enough, things for the Gilpin family would get tragically worse.

While firefighters were battling the flames, emergency crews were alerted of a car crash just six miles away. Shirley Gilpin and her husband Robert heard someone mention a Pontiac Grand Am involved in the accident…the same type of car their son, 39-year-old Anthony Gilpin, drives.

When Robert Gilpin got on the scene of the crash, the sheriff pulled him over and told him his son had been killed in the accident.

The son Anthony Gilpin and a passenger were on the way to his parents’ house after hearing about the fire. He was trying to pass another car when he went onto loose gravel in the shoulder of the road and lost control of the vehicle. The car rolled multiple times and both men were thrown from the car.

Shirley Gilpin said, “I feel like I’m in a nightmare. The loss is…I can’t even put it into words. I would take the whole house down just to have my son back. You can replace this stuff, but you can’t have your son back.”

The family has no insurance and no place to stay. Thursday night, volunteers from the Red Cross gave the family a package to help them with food and clothes.

Friday, the principal from the school the two young boys attend, Cole R-1 Elementary School, came to talk to the family. The Gilpins embraced in tears when they found out the principal said the community is going to pay for the funeral.

Services for Anthony are being handled by Morrill-Scribner, but no funeral date is set.

The passenger, 41-year-old Fredrick Cundiff, was flown to University Hospital in Columbia. He is in critical condition.

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