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Associated Press
Friends and family gather Sunday in Nineveh for a prayer vigil for three victims of a house fire.

Small town honors 3 house-fire victims

– A central Indiana man says his wife was heroic for going back into their burning apartment to try to save two of their young children.

About 100 people gathered around Chris Abbott and his surviving 5-year-old daughter during a vigil Sunday near the house in the Johnson County community of Nineveh where Serina Slusher-Abbott and the couple’s 6-month-old son and 18-month-old daughter were fatally injured Nov. 22.

“She went in that house, she tried to save my kids, and for that she lost her own life,” Abbott said. “She did what any mother should do in that situation. And she’s a hero in my eyes. And she always will be.”

Abbott was at work when the fire broke out, and upon arrival found the second-floor apartment engulfed in flames. The children – 6-month-old John Slusher-Abbott and 18-month-old Haley Slusher-Abbott – died when they were trapped inside the apartment, authorities said. Serina Slusher-Abbott, 27, was badly burned and hospitalized for four days before she died.

Family members lit three paper lanterns and watched them float away into the sky during Sunday’s vigil in the community about 25 miles south of Indianapolis. Friends and neighbors sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace” and released balloons into the air.

“It’s with heavy, heavy hearts that we stand here tonight,” Nineveh Christian Church Pastor Tom Knight said. “Comfort this little town, this little four-way stop.”

Investigators have said they believe the fire was accidental, but haven’t yet ruled on its cause.

The Abbotts’ 5-year-old daughter escaped from the fire and wasn’t hurt. Abbott said his daughter hasn’t been able to talk about the blaze.

“She asks about her mama and I tell her she’s with Jesus,” he said. “I don’t know what she saw. Right now she’s not talking to anybody.”

The funeral for the three victims will be Saturday.