3-year-old dies one day after mother following Elizabethton apartment fire

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) – A 3-year-old girl who was critically injured in an apartment fire in Elizabethton has passed away.

According to Elizabethton Fire Department Fire Marshal Capt. Andy Hardin, Sara Keeling passed away Friday.

Keeling and her mother, Dana, were inside an apartment on Pine Ridge Circle on Wednesday when a fire started in the lower level of the home.

Officials said the fire is believed to have been started by an unattended candle that was left near a couch.

Firefighters found Keeling and her daughter in the upstairs bedroom with injuries that appeared to have been from smoke from the fire. Both were critically injured in the fire and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Officials confirmed on Thursday that Dana Keeling had passed away.

News Channel 11’s Karissa Winstead has been following this story and spoke with two of Dana Keeling’s former teachers at Unaka High School. She graduated from the high school in 2015.

Dana was a student worker for teacher Kayla Clawson.

“For those that didn’t know Dana,” Clawson said, “it would be important for me to tell them that her heart was golden. She had an impact on the people around her.”

That impact is evident when you walk into Unaka High School. Dana graduated from the school last year.

“She had a lot of friends. Even a lot of younger students when they heard the news that had maybe just known her a year or two here were distraught because she made an impression on the even when they were freshmen and sophomores,” said Assistant Principal, Wes Wright.

During her last few years in high school, she had a child named Sara. But her former teachers say that didn’t stop her from coming to class and graduating.

“She maintained her school work, but in the same token her daughter was first and foremost and that’s something that I’ll always remember,” Clawson said.

Students and teachers at the school are grieving.

“We’ve had a lot of students grieving publicly. Several have spoken to our counselor. We’ve had several parents call in on the child’s behalf because they just were too emotional to come to school and we understand that and we have excused those,” Wright said.

“It has definitely affected our community. Because like I said she’s somebody that had a good heart had good relationship with her peers. And the things and nature of her will be something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Clawson said.

Students at the school are planning a vigil. A date for that has not yet been set.

Keep checking WJHL.com for updates as more information becomes available.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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