SODUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A fire that swept through a southwestern Michigan motel early Saturday killed five children and their mother, authorities said.
The Cosmo Extended Stay Motel in Sodus Township was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived shortly after receiving a 911 call at 1:45 a.m., the Berrien County sheriff's office said.
Kiarre Curtis, 26, and five children ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old likely succumbed to smoke inhalation, Chief Deputy Robert Boyce said. Her husband and a 1-year-old child survived. All eight were in the same room.
"It's tragic. It tears at your heart," Boyce said. "Any time you have children, it's worse. When it's multiple children, it's even worse."
The motel is off Interstate 94 in the southwestern corner of Michigan, roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Chicago. Authorities said 27 rooms were occupied and 90 percent of the property was damaged by smoke, fire or water.
Boyce described the two-story motel as a place for people with low incomes to "get back on their feet."
Eight people were treated for smoke inhalation and released from a hospital. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Curtis' husband, Samuel Curtis, was the father of some of the children who died, Boyce said.
"His whole world's been turned upside down," the chief deputy said.
A motel resident, Sarah Sanders, said she fled after a friend shouted at her to get out.
"By the time we get outside, the end of the building exploded," Sanders told the South Bend Tribune. "The glass shattered out and there was big whoof of flame."
Another resident, Robert Payne, said the fire started just a few doors from his room. He said he liked the children and sometimes gave them money for candy.
"They never talked back; perfect," Payne said. "It breaks my heart that I ain't going to see them no more. That's a shame."