Aunt of boy lost in Wellsville fire says her family is devastated; mother suffers smoke inhalation trying to save her son

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WELLSVILLE, Kan. -- A family is devastated after a house fire in Wellsville claimed the life of a bright, young boy.

Six-year-old Brex Whalen couldn't make it out of his burning home on Tuesday night. Rescuers eventually rushed the boy to a hospital, where he died.

FOX 4's Shannon O'Brien talked with the boy's aunt today.

"He was very loving. He always smiling. His smile was contagious."

Brex could make anyone's day better, just by his sweet nature, his aunt Amber Crowl said.

Tuesday night, she got a devastating phone call that her beloved nephew was dead.

"I'd hoped it wasn't true, and knowing that he won't be around to do those things, to smile and love everyone the way that he did," Crowl said.

Brex died in a fire at his mother and step father's Wellsville home. His step father is currently deployed serving the country overseas.

The state fire marshall said the fire started in the living room of the house, where Brex's body was found.

Authorities said his mother, Leighann Morris heard the smoke alarm outside of her bedroom and was able to jump out of a window with her 3-year-old daughter Kiptynn.

"She was just screaming man, 'my baby is inside!'" neighbor Kody Henry recalled.

Neighbors watched helplessly as Morris tried several times to go back in and save her son, but the fire was just too hot, the smoke too thick.

"I just hope that there wasn't a lot of pain," Crowl said.

Aunt Amber said it is a tragedy that this family can not yet fully comprehend. But for the children, like her son, 7-year-old Ellis Crowl, it is almost impossible for them to understand.

"He was completely crushed, he had a meltdown. He loved Brex. Brex was his best friend. They were in the same grade at school. They went to the same school. Every time they talked about each other, 'that's my best friend,'" Crowl explained. "I just loved having him around. He and the boys, we live on a farm, so he and the boys would run around and play with walkie-talkies and play army and cowboy and sheriff and just every time he was around is a great memory."

Brex's father Ryan also lives in town. The family said he was with Brex at the hospital when the little boy passed away. The parents were too upset to speak on camera Wednesday.

Brex's step father, Jeff Morris, has been granted leave and is on his way back home. Leighann is at the Overland Park Regional Medical Center being treated for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

A vigil will be held at Wellsville City Hall, 411 Main Street, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Loved ones have started a GoFundMe page for the family. A memorial fund has also been set up. Donations can also be made to:

Brex Whalen Memorial Fund
c/o Mid America bank
PO Box 671
1008 Poplar St.
Wellsville, KS  66092