UPDATE: Knoxville woman rescued from apartment fire dies at UT

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) - The New Year's started deadly for one Knoxville family.

The Knoxville Fire Department says 29-year-old Jennifer Johnston died after firefighters rescued her from a burning West Knoxville apartment. It happened just before one o'clock this morning.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy's been following this story.

He's in the newsroom with more. A KFD spokesman says Linda Johnston came home to find her Woodview Terrace apartment filled with smoke. Inside her daughter lay unconscious. Linda's search to find Jennifer amidst the smoke put them both in UT Medical Center, but only Linda survived.

For one Knoxville family, it was a countdown to disaster.

"You feel for somebody who loses someone on the beginning of the year," neighbor Kendrick Tate said.

Less than hour after the ball dropped on 2008...

"She was a fire fatality," KFD spokesman Brent Seymour said.

A fire erupts in Woodview Terrace Apartments Unit 1028. The front door charred and melted.

"It hits close to home because it could've been you," Tate said.

Instead, it was Kendrick Tate's backside neighbor.

"About 12:55 firefighters responded to a call for smoke coming from an apartment off Middlebrook pike," Seymour said.

KFD spokesman Brent Seymour says Linda Johnston had just come up from work. A pile of insulation stained by the smoke she found.

Firefighters say the mother came home and rushed inside to find her daughter, but the smoke was just too much.

"Firefighters made entry and found this person in the back bedroom of the person," Seymour said.

Seymour says that person was 29-year-old Jennifer Johnston. She had a prosthetic leg.

"When she was removed from the house, she was unconscious," Seymour said.

The fire that scalded her apartment also took Jennifer's life at UT Medical Center.

"I'd be doing laundry and she'd have that smile on her, like, 'how you doing?'" Tate said.

The smell of fire's smoke found it's to Tate's apartment this afternoon. He says so did Linda.

"She apologized for what had happened. Let us know that she was sorry," Tate said.

From the blackened apartment comes a possible resolution for Tate.

"Makes you realize life is precious and you need to live every moment to the fullest," Tate said.

Because his neighbor in 1028 is gone forever.

Seymour says the fire started in a bathroom. The cause hasn't been determined yet, but he says it looks to be accidental.

Seymour says the apartment had a smoke detector, but it's not clear yet if they worked properly. He says now's the perfect time to check yours.

Several other apartments suffered smoke and water damage.


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