Tragic fire in Lebanon that killed five children has two Ozark County connections
The tragic story from Lebanon last week reporting the deaths of five children in a mobile home fire has two Ozark County connections.
Two of the five children, Andre Malleck, 1 1/2, and Patience Malleck, 6 months, are descendants of the late Leonard and Hattie Chaney, who founded Chaney Monument here around 1935. The young kids and their mother, Alexandra “Alee” Malleck, 20, who suffered burns and smoke damage to her lungs and is in Mercy Hospital in Springfield, still unconscious and unaware of the loss, are also distant cousins of Randy Spurlock, whose family owns Spurlock’s store in Squires.
The three other children who died in the fire – Ethan Hunt, 5; Maeanna Hunt, 2; and Benjamin Hunt, 1 – are the children of Kelley Hunt. Their mother is believed to be Audrianna Middlesworth, who was not in the home at the time of the fire. The Hunt children were cousins of the Malleck kids, related through their fathers, one of the grandmothers, Lori Carrillo, told the Times Monday night in a message.
Tracing the lineage, Leonard and Hattie Chaney’s daughter Amy married John Clark. Their daughter, Peggy Clark, is Lori Carrillo’s mother. Carrillo is the mother of Alee Malleck – and grandmother to Andre and Patience, her only grandchildren, she said Monday night. The children’s father is Taylor Malleck.
Ruby Chaney, another daughter of Leonard and Hattie, married a Spurlock, creating what would become a distant link to Randy Spurlock and his family in Squires.
Both the Lebanon Fire Department and the Missouri Department of Public Safety told the Times Monday that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Ozark County’s second connection
Carrillo told the Kansas City Star that Alee had driven to the mobile home with her two children early Wednesday morning, arriving before Hunt left for work at 5:45 a.m. Carrillo said Monday she’d been told that Alee stepped up to babysit the Hunt children when their previously scheduled babysitter canceled.
Driving her own two kids to the mobile home to help out her brother-in-law, Kelley Hunt, was an act of kindness – and love. “Alee loves her nieces and nephews,” Corrillo said. “When Alee loves someone, she loves them fully.”
It’s believed that Alee and all the children were sleeping when the fire started.
The blaze was reported to the Lebanon Fire Department about 9 a.m. Wednesday as a structure fire “with people trapped inside,” said Gainesville resident Brian Morgan, an emergency medical technician who works for the Mercy ambulance system in Lebanon. Morgan became Ozark County’s second connection to the tragedy when he was one of three ambulance crews that responded to the fire.
The mobile home was fully engulfed with flames when first responders, including Morgan, arrived. Firefighters brought out Alee Malleck, and the medics quickly readied her for air ambulance transport to the hospital in Springfield.
The Kansas City Star reported that “paramedics said she had a 10 percent chance (of survival).” She was badly burned and was suffering from smoke inhalation, sources said.
Then, said Morgan, “the firefighters started bringing the kids out as they found them and handed them to me. I carried them to my ambulance, and we checked them. We kept hoping, but ...” He couldn’t finish the sentence.
Brian said it was “the worst call I’ve ever had,” and he’s having trouble getting over it. “I’ve had a few nightmares about it. It’s just one of them deals that’ll be with me forever, I know,” he said.
Morgan, who served for a while as Gainesville’s fire chief and currently serves as a volunteer with the Lick Creek Volunteer Fire Department, said Monday he’s “getting out of that. I don’t think I could go to another structure fire.”
He also works for Ozark County Ambulance and has a home construction, remodeling and maintenance business here. He and his wife, Nicole, have three children: Tyler, who’s doing welding work in Kansas; Garrett, 17; and Katelyn, 11.
Returning to the scene
After church on Sunday, Nicole and Katelyn went to Lebanon with Brian. Katelyn had chosen five of her stuffed animals that she wanted to put on the makeshift memorial at the trailer park entrance that had been shown on news reports.
“I needed to go back there. I wanted to check on my partner who’d worked it with me. And I wanted to go back to the trailer park. It was just something I needed to do to cope with what I’ve been going through,” Morgan said.
He was amazed to see all the things that had been left at the facility’s entrance to honor the children. “I didn’t realize it was as big as it was. There were probably 200 stuff animals and little toys there. It was amazing,” he said.
He knelt down and helped Katelyn add her stuffed animals to the memorial. Then he said a prayer and stood up. But as he turned and walked back to Nicole, “all I could see is me walking with them babies in my arms to my ambulance,” he said in a Facebook post. He added, “May God hold us all in his arms as we do his work here on earth.”
Descendants of strong Ozark Countians
Recovering from the tragedy will be hard for all involved, and Lori Carrillo is especially worried about her daughter, Alee, who has been sedated and on a ventilator to help her breathe since arriving at the hospital Wednesday. She has undergone skin grafts and will have to have more; she has also suffered damage to her lungs caused by smoke inhalation.
When doctors decide she’s ready to come out of the sedated state and is able to breathe on her own, Alee still faces another overwhelming challenge: she must be told of her children’s deaths and the deaths of their cousins.
“I don’t know how any of us are going to get over the loss of our sweet babies, but I really don’t know how Alee will manage,” Carrillo said. “I’m afraid she’ll quit fighting when she finds out.”
One bit of encouragement that might help the family is remembering that they come from strong Ozark County stock. Before he started Chaney Monument in the mid-30s, Leonard Chaney lost both hands and an eye in a work-related accident in Oklahoma that involved dynamite, said current Chaney Monument owner Rob Collins. “But he could do just about anything with those pinchers,” Collins said, referring to Chaney’s prostheses, which would be considered primitive by today’s standards.
Despite having no hands, Chaney operated Chaney Monument for many years with the help of his son, Stanley, who eventually took over the business. Leonard also served as Ozark County treasurer and then county administrator; he raised cattle, and for several years, he and his wife also operated a tax and bookkeeping service. He died at age 71 of a heart attack in 1969.
Stanley Chaney continued to operate the monument company a few more years then sold the business to his lifelong friend W. D. Collins, known as “Dub,” after Collins came home after serving in Vietnam. Collins’ nephew, Rob. Collins, worked with him in the business, and since W. D.’s death in 2007, Rob has owned and operated the company.
A gofundme account has been set up by family friends. To help, search for “The Malleck’s and Family.”