The woman who perished Tuesday night in a fire that also claimed the lives of her twin 3-year-old sons had left food cooking on the stove and her sons alone while she went to pick up a friend, authorities said Wednesday.
Mary P. Brown, 30, of Green Park Avenue and her sons, Isiah and Isiac Brown, died of smoke inhalation, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Kelly Myers said.
Investigators have not determined how long Brown was gone, but she left her home to pick up Kimario Simmons from a residence on Wallace Lane, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said in a press release.
"When they returned, the house was engulfed," sheriff's Maj. John Clark said.
Brown is thought to have rushed inside to save her sons.
Simmons stood behind the smoke-filled house Tuesday night with a cell phone in one hand and the limp body of a 3-year-old boy in his arms.
"We need your help, man," Simmons told a Charleston County 911 dispatcher on the phone at 9:07 p.m. "We're on Green Park and Dogwood, hurry up."
Brown had handed the child to Simmons and then returned inside the house to find his twin brother.
"I can't see to go in," Simmons told the dispatcher. "She in there trying to get the other baby out of the house."
She would not return. Firefighters would later find her in the hallway near the doorway of the bedroom where the other child was found, Assistant Fire Chief Raymond Lloyd said. All three were pronounced dead that night at local hospitals.
Unattended food and pots left on a hot stove caused the fire, Lloyd said. There was damage to the kitchen and heavy smoke throughout the house. A smoke detector in one of the bedrooms was going off when firefighters arrived, he said.
Charleston County officials on Wednesday released the 911 tape from the initial call. In the tape, Simmons tells the dispatcher that one of the boys -- later determined to be Isiah -- was in his arms. He attempted CPR on the child while pausing at times to call out for the mother.
"She gone in but she ain't come back out yet," he told the dispatcher. "I can hear him (breathing) a little bit, but you can tell the smoke done get to him."
The dispatcher continued to talk Simmons through CPR until sirens could be heard in the background. Firefighters found him in the backyard.
Simmons declined to comment Wednesday.
Friends and neighbors said Brown was a loving mother. A woman who would only identify herself as a good friend showed up at their house Wednesday in tears. She had just found out about the deaths.
"That's my friend, man," she said. "Oh my God, that's my friend."
Neighbor Alex Sparra II said they were a great family.
"She was always in the backyard taking care of them," Sparra said. "She was a very, very good mother."
Lloyd said the dispatcher initially misunderstood the location of the fire and gave units that were still on standby the wrong location until a second dispatcher corrected the error and the units were sent to the right location. He said the procedures in place to maintain accuracy worked in this case. "The units were dispatched in less than two minutes from the time the call came in," Lloyd said. "There was only a little delay."
A firefighters' peer support group and the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy also responded. The support group counseled firefighters who were shaken by having to deal with multiple fatalities, Chaplain Rob Dewey said. Chaplains counseled relatives of the victims as well as firefighters, Dewey said.
Fielding Home for Funerals is handling the services.