HOUSTON – Family and friends are mourning the loss of a beloved elderly woman who was trapped in her burning home early Thursday.
Neighbors couldn’t reach her because of burglar bars on her windows. Firefighters had to cut through the bars to get into the home, but it was too late.
Beverly Whitley, 89, died at a Houston-area hospital a few hours after she was pulled from the fire. Whitley’s pet Chihuahua, Sweetie, also died.
"It’s beyond belief. I couldn’t bare to even see it," said Jennifer Richards, the victim’s granddaughter. She lives next door on Briarwick Lane at Bentley Road.
"We heard a popping noise coming from the garage. We sleep here in the front room," Richards said. "So we looked out of the window and I called 911."
Her husband and other neighbors tried to save Whitely.
"When we ran out of the house the fire was in that end of the house, but she was in the front bedroom and there was no way to get in," said neighbor Sheila Robbins. "The burglar bars had been on that house – I’ve lived here almost 20 years, and they’ve always been there."
Firefighters found Whitely in the living room.
"I don’t know if she was trying to escape or not," Richards said.
Arson investigators believe it was an electrical fire that started in the garage.
Some firefighters knew the victim because her husband was a retired firefighter who died recently. Her daughter died earlier this year from cancer.
Whitley and her daughter were also familiar to KHOU 11 News. We interviewed them in 2003 when they survived a freak accident on the North Loop.
They were near I-45 when a 10-pound, 20-inch saw blade crashed through the window of their SUV.
"The guy said, ‘Are you a Christian?’" She [the daughter] said, ‘If I wasn’t, I am now,’" an animated Beverly Whitely joked after the accident.
Family members say Whitely had a wonderful sense of humor and even told them, "When I go, I’m taking everything with me – even the house.’"