The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 5, 2011

New Ulm fire: relatives mourn

NEW ULM — Two firefighters and a police officer were staffing a  post Tuesday at the site of a New Ulm house fire that claimed six lives Saturday.

Authorities were keeping the site secure for fire investigators and insurance representatives as a steady stream of people passed by and snapped photos in the aftermath of what is thought to be the city’s worst loss-of-life blaze.

“Without a doubt it’s the most tragic house fire in recent memory in New Ulm,” Police Chief Myron Wieland said of the 2 a.m. incident that turned the Bohemian Bed & Breakfast into a fireball.

Names of the deceased have yet to be officially released, though family members have confirmed that home owner Bobbi McCrea, 48, and daughters Abby, 15, and Savannah, 3, died in the fire that appeared to have started in the front porch area and swiftly enveloped the exterior of the home at 304 S. German St.  (Map)

The case is being investigated by the state fire marshal’s office and identities will be released following autopsies by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner.

On Tuesday Jerry and Maggie Ubl were among those stopping to gaze upon the ruins of the 1899 structure.

Jerry Ubl is McCrea’s uncle. He and his wife, both New Ulm natives, had just driven nine hours straight from their home in Columbia, Mo.

“We were informed on Saturday of the tragedy, so we threw some clothes in the car and came up,” he said as he took in the sight and shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

Firefighters on Saturday tried to enter the rear of the house but were thwarted by intense heat.

New Ulm Police Cmdr. Dave Borchert said arson doesn’t appear likely, though investigators have yet to make that determination.

According to various media reports, McCrea’s husband Charlie Zangl escaped from the burning house and was imploring McCrea to drop the children from a third-story window.

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