SUMMERVILLE - After a young man heard his mother scream early Wednesday, he grabbed some of his things and ran from their mobile home.
"Fire!" his mother, 51-year-old Sharon Zey Hodge, had yelled before her son went to a neighbor's home to get help.
Dustin Zey, 19, thought his mother and her 9-year-old son, Christian Aaron Zey, had already reached safety.
Before long, flames consumed the home at 403 Cavalier Drive in the Royal Manor Mobile Home Park. But Hodge and Christian Zey were still inside, and they couldn't make it out.
"He went straight to the neighbors and thought they had, too," Paige Plempell, a family friend, said as she told the young man's story. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't affect him negatively for the rest of his life."
What sparked the blaze that killed the mother and her youngest boy was not immediately known Wednesday.
Capt. Jon Rogers of the Summerville Police Department, which is investigating the fire, said it was "way too early to even comment" on whether foul play was suspected. An autopsy for each of the victims was planned for Thursday morning, Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet said.
Neighbors described Hodge as a generous woman who was twice widowed. Christian Zey recently finished third grade at Flowertown Elementary School.
The fire spared little at their home, where the surviving son and his loved ones gathered Wednesday morning. Neighbors comforted him and other relatives who cried out in grief as investigators picked through the remnants.
Flames had eaten away most of the home's front wall, revealing charred beams and furniture. Few of the home's contents were still recognizable.
Outside, the fire had scorched the front lawn. The front door lay mangled and partially melted on the grass.
Authorities were first called around 12:33 a.m. to the community off Bacons Bridge Road.
From a nearby home, Lasshon Williams saw the flames build. A nurse, Williams had been caring for a neighbor at the time.
"I heard the screaming and looked out the window," she said. "It was completely engulfed in flames."
Across the street, Tony Castrovillari's wife woke him. Like Williams, he peered through his window at the raging inferno.
"Flames were shooting up higher than the pine trees," he said. "There was nothing we could do."
Crews from the Summerville Fire & Rescue Department arrived quickly. They learned when they showed up that someone was still inside.
About 27 firefighters with six trucks battled the blaze, Battalion Chief Jacob Evans said. The crews included off-duty firefighters who were summoned to the scene.
But the home was about three-quarters engulfed in flames when they arrived, Evans said. That complicated their efforts to get inside.
"They had made attempts," Evans said.
But they were forced to fight the blaze from a defensive stance. They controlled it within 30 minutes, Evans said.
Dustin Zey had already escaped without injury by the time the authorities got there. The bodies of his mother and his brother were found after the blaze was extinguished.
Plempell, the family friend, stood outside the blackened home and expressed shock of losing "a remarkable woman."
Hodge was a widow who had lost two husbands in her lifetime, Plempell said. Her most recent husband, George Hodge, had died in March 2013. He was described in an obituary as a retired mechanic and a special deputy with Dorchester County.
Despite some difficult times, Plempell said, Hodge would put others' needs before her own.
"She was the most amazing woman I've ever met," Plempell said. "She was giving ... so unselfish."
Plempell befriended the woman because they had children who were the same age.
Christian Zey had been on the honor roll at Flowertown, the elementary school less than 2 miles from his home.
The school year had ended for him last week, and during the first weekend of summertime, Christian Zey's family gathered with Plempell's to celebrate his birthday.
"He just turned 9 Sunday," Plempell said. "We had a big birthday party here."
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
The site of a fire that killed two people at 403 Cavalier Drive in the Royal Manor Mobile Home Park in Summerville early Wednesday morning.×
Summerville Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Anthony Mire investigates in the aftermath of the fire.×
Dustin Zey, who lost his mom and brother in a fire early Wednesday that he was able to escape from, is comforted by his grandparents at the scene.×
The site of a fatal fire that killed two at the Royal Manor Mobile Home Park in Summerville early Wednesday morning.×