Carroll County mother dies in trailer fire

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By Kristin Beck

A Carroll County woman, originally from Texas, died in a trailer fire early Monday morning after going back inside to retrieve items for her baby.

Wendy Mercer, 37, died inside her home at 1422 Gilgal Road. Following a Tuesday morning autopsy by the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Louisville, the cause of death was determined to be smoke and thermal inhalation, Carroll County Coroner David Wilhoite said.

Westside Volunteer Fire Department and Ghent Fire Protection District were dispatched at 5:16 a.m. to the structure fire.

Dispatch advised one occupant was unaccounted for, but all others were out, Westside Fire Chief Clyde Rowlett said.

When firefighters arrived, they found two single-wide trailers side-by-side within inches of one another, both fully involved, he said.

William Kelly, Mercer’s fiancé, and their 4-month-old infant, William, were living in one trailer, while Kelly’s mother, Wilma Lindsey, and grandparents, Arnold Ray and Wilma Smith, were living in the other. 

Arnold Ray Smith said he was lying on the couch, mostly awake, when William brought the infant over to his mother and asked him for water to help put the fire out. Before they could put any water on the fire, it had already spread to Smith’s trailer.

All family members inside the home were out, but Mercer went back inside to retrieve baby bottles and diapers for the 4-month-old infant, Rowlett said.

“The state fire marshall’soffice pretty well determined a space heater started the fire,” Rowlett said, which was located in the front of the Kelly-Mercer trailer. Deputy State Fire Marshall Russ Allen is investigating the case, he said.

Mercer was found in a room in the back of her trailer, Carroll County Sheriff Jamie Kinman said.

Rowlett said the fire was under control by 6:30 a.m., and the fire departments cleared the scene at 10:54 a.m. Carroll County Coroner’s Office, Carroll County EMS and Kentucky Fire Marshall’s Office also responded to the scene.

Rowlett urged those using space heaters in their homes to use extreme caution and to make sure they are safe and up to code.

He also wanted to remind everyone to get out when a structure is on fire.

“Anytime you have something on fire, don’t go back in,” he said.

Family lost all

The family escaped the fire with only the clothes on their backs and are in need of donations.

Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office are collecting items. The family also has set up an account at First National Bank under the name Arnold Smith Sr. and Wilma Jo Smith.

The following items are needed:

• Clothing for two women size 3XL pants and shirts and 10 to 10 1/2 size shoes.

• Night gowns and a house coat size 3XL for an older woman.

• Size 10 1/2 shoes for two men.

• Men’s XL shirt and 42x32 pants.

• Men’s L shirt and 32x32 pants.

• Clothing for a male infant, size 6-9 months. The baby also needs a walker or bouncy seat and Gerber Soothe formula.

• Clothing size 5T for a male family member whose clothes were stored in the home.


“People have been awfully good to me,” Arnold Ray Smith said. “They showed up, friends around here … We appreciate all that everyone has done.”

The family suvivors are living with other family members close by.

William’s older brother Justin Kelly, who also lived in the trailer up to a few days ago when he moved up the road, said the family has received numerous offers of free single-wide trailers. All of the neighbors have been pitching in, donating money, diapers and other items, he said.
NKCAC’s Vicki Kemper said the family also will need household furniture in the future, but does not have anywhere to store it now.