LORIS, SC (WMBF) Two young boys and their paternal grandfather died in a house fire early Wednesday morning and a memorial service will be held Friday evening.
Horry County Fire Rescue and the Loris Fire Department responded to a 911 call about the fire at 12:37 a.m. Flames destroyed most of the home at 2294 Douston Lane, off SC Highway 19 west of Loris.
According to Horry County Deputy Coroner Tony Hendrick, Conner Lynn Elliott,7, Austin Daniel Elliott, 9, and their grandfather Hugh Elliott, died of smoke inhalation in the fire. Hendrick says Hugh Elliott was the custodial guardian of Conner and Austin.
A memorial service to remember the three will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lake Swamp Baptist Church located on Highway 917 in Loris.
Horry County Fire Rescue Investigators say the two children were discovered in a bedroom within the residence and their grandfather was found in the hallway.
Hugh Elliott was a veteran of World War II and was on board the November 2010 Honor Flight to visit the Washington, DC.
Grant Reynolds accompanied Elliott during the 2010 Honor flight and says he was a man who acted much younger than his actual age.
"[He was] really full of energy and didn't seem, I guess as old as some of the other people. Just young and vibrant," Reynolds says.
Reynolds says the two stayed in touch following the Honor Flight, and he believes Elliott was completely devoted to grandsons.
"You could tell they took priority over everything else in his life," Reynolds says.
Green Sea Floyds Elementary School assistant principal Bebe Harrelson said grief counselors from the school district were on hand Wednesday to talk with the children about the loss of their fellow students.
"We were deeply saddened to hear about the deaths of Austin and Conner Elliott. Their deaths are a tragic loss to our Green Sea Floyds family and to the community," Harrelson says.
Bobbie Hammond says her grandson was best friends with Conner, and she will have a difficult time explaining to him that Conner is gone.
"I'll tell him that [Conner has] gone to see Jesus, and [my grandson] can see him again one day and they play and be friends again," Hammond says.
"Hugh was a great father, grandfather. He did everything," commented close family friend Gregg Stalvey. "It's not real. It's not happening - especially with the boys."
Stalvey said he considered the boys' father Chuck Elliott to be like his own brother. So he thought of Hugh Elliott like a father and the boys like nephews.
"they loved playing horseshoes, playing pool - anything outside. They were very outgoing, very wide open."
Prentiss Norton lives just across the road from the home that burned. He is the neighbor who called 911 after noticing the flames through his home's windows in the middle of the night.
"It's going to take me some time to get out of it 'cause it really hurt," Norton said. "When you see something like I saw this morning, it'll get to you."
Even one of the boys' younger neighbors was feeling the loss Wednesday. 13-year-old Jordan Saunders lives just down the road, and he played with the boys regularly.
"That shocked me 'cause [Austin] was a good friend," Jordan said. "They were nice kids - really the only good people to hang out with."
Stalvey said Chuck Elliott currently lives in Kentucky, and he was traveling to South Carolina Wednesday. He said Hugh Elliott's wife died around Christmas time, and he and the boys were planning to move to Kentucky soon.
Horry County Fire Rescue Investigators do not know how or where the fire started, and because the fire was so intense there is not much evidence left behind to help them figure that out.
Most of floor to home collapsed, making it even more difficult for fire officials to collect more information.
Horry County Police say they do not suspect foul play, but the investigation is still open.