NEW MELLE, Mo. – An elderly couple was killed after an intense overnight fire at their home near New Melle.
The tragedy unfolded on Tall Cedar Court, between Highway Z and Highway T. The husband and wife who were killed are identified as Kenneth and Phyllis Zerr. They were both 84 years old and loved by many people. They’re survived by three children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Chief Dan Casey with the New Melle Fire Protection District said his crews got the call about 12:40 a.m. When the department got to the home, they saw smoke coming from the roof.
Firefighters knew there were two people trapped in a back bedroom because of a 911 call that came from Kenneth Zerr about the fire. Crews got inside and made it to the bedroom.
They started to search for Kenneth and Phyllis, but had to retreat because the fire was intensifying. When they were able to make it back inside, they found Kenneth and Phyllis together, dead in a bathroom.
Corporal Barry Bayles from the St. Charles County Police Department spoke with us about the 911 conversation that Kenneth had with a dispatcher.
“We were able to speak to an elderly gentleman, who informed us that there was a fire of some type,” Bayles said “We did not get any specifics, or he could not give any specifics at the time. We were talking to him about that, we asked him about getting out of the house. He said that his wife was on the floor, wasn’t able to move her, and he was not going to be leaving her at the time. It is tragic, you know, two lives were lost here this morning.”
The couple’s son, Andy Zerr, said they died together holding hands.
“They were wonderful with each other. They loved each other to the end,” Andy said.
Family members of the elderly couple killed are still in disbelief after the tragedy. Andy said his parents were married for 63 years and pillars of the community.
“Such a tragic loss, so much family they left behind, and we are all really taken by this. It’s really very hard,” he said. “It came unexpected, and it happened so quick.”
Chief Casey explained that his crews did everything they could to try and save Phyllis and Kenneth.
“Fire crews went into this building with zero visibility, and the only reason they did that is because they knew two people were inside, and they wanted to save those people,” he said.
Casey told us Phyllis used a wheelchair and that did pose some challenges to them getting out of the home. Casey also said the fire started in the basement and was accidental.
“My father had a chance to get out of the house by himself, but elected to stay with my mom,” Andy said.
The state fire marshal has been called to assist with finding an exact cause.