Elizabethton woman reflects on the hours before loss of daughter, granddaughter in apartment fire

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) – Emma Grindstaff spoke to News Channel 11’s Justin Soto Friday evening telling him her 20-year-old daughter Dana Keeling and 3-year-old daughter Sara Keeling were her sunshine.

The Elizabethton Fire Department told us it received word today that three year old Sara Keeling died. This comes the day after officials said her mother 20 year old Dana Keeling died as well.

Sara 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.

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 but have both since passed away.

“She probably could have changed the world, but we’ll never know, we’ll never know,” Emma Grindstaff said as she grieves the loss of her two babies.

She said her world fell apart when she found out her daughter, Dana Keeling and granddaughter, Sara Keeling died after a fire ripped through their Elizabethton apartment Wednesday. She’s grateful she said “I love you” hours before the blaze.

“Sara said Gammy I love you, she told me I was her sunshine,” Grindstaff said.

Sara was her little ray of sunshine who never lost energy.

“Sara was a spitfire, she was a spitfire, she didn’t know a stranger, not at all, she loved to sing, and she loved to dance, color, plato, plato was her thing,” Grindstaff said.

Emma couldn’t be more proud of her daughter Dana.

“She finished out high school, raising the child and went on to college and she was a phlebotomist,” Grindstaff said.

Johnson City Medical Center gave Emma a final memento of Sara, her purple handprint on a piece of paper.

She plans to hold on tight to Sara’s favorite toys and the photos from her recent third birthday party and she has a message that she wants the world to hear.

“You’re not promised the next day, make sure that you tell your children that you tell your grandchildren, mom, dad, brother sister each day that you love them,” Grindstaff said.

Grindstaff tells News Channel 11 she’s holding on to her grandbaby’s last hand print as a memory of her three short years on earth.

Grindstaff said the TLC Community Center, the County Commission and Tetricks Funeral Home are working to cover all burial expenses and Food City is providing flowers. Dana and Sara will be laid to rest in the same casket. A date for the funeral has not yet been set.

Watch the full story tonight on News Channel 11 at 11 p.m.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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