Rikki Travis said a prayer early Tuesday as she watched the news about four people dying in a house fire in central Lexington County.
It wasn’t until a few hours later that Travis learned her friend, Amanda Kelly, was among those who perished. Also killed were Kelly’s husband, Scott, and two of their four children.
“That’s when I broke down and physically cried,” said Travis, 36. “I was hoping it was a misprint and it wasn’t true. Once I went back and looked at the house and looked through the pictures – that’s Mandy’s house.”
Firefighters responded just after midnight to the family’s home in the 100 block of Mossborough Drive in the Oak Grove area, where they found a two-story home fully involved, officials said. After entering the home, firefighters found four people dead inside.
In addition to Scott Kelly, 42, and Mandy Kelly, 34, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said the couple’s two youngest children, 9-year-old Elizabeth and 10-month-old Judah, also died.
Two older children, Bekah and Jared, along with Scott Kelly’s mother, survived, according to family friends.
There has been no word on what caused the fire, which remains under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Meanwhile, a community grieves.
The Kellys had adopted Judah when he was a newborn, according to Travis, who said she and Amanda Kelly planned to meet for coffee next week so Travis could meet Judah for the first time.
Travis and Amanda Kelly met two or three years ago while they were selling Perfectly Posh, a line of pampering products. Travis recalled an event Kelly hosted at her home; the kids were helping her prepare the food, and Elizabeth – known to most people as Lizzie – had chocolate smeared on her face from one of the sweets.
“I remember Mandy taking a picture before cleaning her up,” Travis said. “It was always a happy memory when her kids were happy. ... The kids were her life. They were everything to her.”
She said she last saw Amanda Kelly and Lizzie two weeks ago while shopping at Wal-Mart. “Lizzie came up and gave me a big hug,” Travis said.
Her voice began cracking as she recalled the girl’s strong faith. “Full of energy, always talking about God,” she said. “I guarantee you she was smiling when she went to heaven today.”
Travis’ daughter Rianne, 17, is organizing a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Brookland-Cayce High School, where Bekah Kelly attends school.
A stay-at-home mom, Amanda Kelly also operated a Christian blog entitled “Worshipful Living.” Her last entry was posted Sunday: “Seeing Jesus for Who He Is.”
“It is an eternal question – with an eternal consequence,” she wrote. “Who do you say Jesus is?”
Scott Kelly worked in IT support at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, a USC spokesman confirmed. He had served in that position since 2006.
The couple married five years ago after meeting online, and were active at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, according to the Rev. Eddie Coakley. Amanda Kelly moved to the area from Florida to be with Scott, who was a widower and father to the three eldest children.
In addition to teaching Sunday school, Scott Kelly also was a deacon, while Amanda Kelly was the leader of the women’s ministry, Coakley said.
“He was a pastor’s dream,” Coakley said. “You felt like you knew them your whole life. Everything just clicked.”
Scott Kelly’s mother was airlifted to to the burn center in Augusta for treatment of burns on an arm and her back, said Coakley, who visited her Tuesday. She is recovering well and is expected to be released as soon as Wednesday, Coakley said.
Scott Kelly’s mother told Coakley that her son told her to get out of the house when the fire broke out, Coakley said. He was going to get the other family members as she exited the home.
The two children who survived will be cared for by close family members, Coakley said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
“Presiding over any funeral is difficult, but this one will be especially so because they were my friends,” Coakley said. “But at the same time, they would trust me to say the right thing.”