A member of the elite Army Special Forces, back from his fifth deployment to Afghanistan, died Tuesday trying to rescue his two daughters from a blazing house fire. His young girls were also killed.
Green Beret Edward Cantrell and his wife reportedly escaped from their burning home near Hope Mills, N.C., around 2 a.m. They jumped from the second story and onto the ground. Cantrell then wrapped himself in a blanket, braving the flames.
His two young girls, 6-year-old Isabella and 4-year-old Natalia, were trapped on the second floor in their bedrooms, reported The Associated Press.
He never made it back out, said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, according to The Associated Press. Tanna said the home was made from wood that appeared to be very dry, allowing the fire to spread rapidly through the house. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Cantrell's wife, Louise, was being treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital. The family Rottweiler, Sasha, also survived the fire.
Cantrell joined the Army in 1994 and had one combat deployment to Iraq and five to Afghanistan, reported The Associated Press. He was a decorated solider with four Bronze Stars and one Purple Heart awarded for battled wounds.
Cantrell was a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and held the rank of chief warrant officer 2, reported The Associated Press.
The Soldiers and Families of the Special Forces Regiment are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our Green Berets and his daughters in an overnight house fire, wrote U.S. Army Special Forces Command on their official Facebook page. There are no words to express the sorrow felt in our close-knit community when a family suffers such a tragedy. We will continue to provide our support and prayers, and ask that the public respect their right to privately grieve.
Cantrell's daughter Isabella attended Ed V. Baldwin Elementary School. Prinicipal Todd Yardis said the girl's teacher, along with a grief counselor, told the students what had transpired.
Bella was a very happy, loving girl, Yardis said. She was one of those students who would run up and hug you around the leg when you passed her class in the hall.
Yardis said Cantrell was a hero for running back into the blaze.
He talked about wanting to get out of the military and opening his own business, Yardis said. He wanted to open a tattoo parlor.
Louise reportedly ran to an assisted living facility next door during the blaze to get the staff to call 911.
She was with those girls all the time, said Cindy Jacobs, the executive director of the ARC of Hope Mills. It's so sad. I can't imagine what she's going through.