Woman killed in Union Township fire made it out before returning to save dog

An unthinkably sad story becomes more tragic by the day.
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 8:14 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - The tragedy deepens in Union Township after Monday night’s deadly condominium fire.

The mother of 28-year-old Emily Black says Emily initially made it out but rushed back inside the condominium to save her dog.

Around four hours later, police officers showed up at the home of Belinda Thomas and her husband, Emily’s step-father.

“They stood right there, in front of my tv, and I sat right here, and he said, ‘You know... Do you know of Emily Mae?”

Thomas’ heart sank. “My mind just stopped, and I started screaming.” The officer struggled to say the words, but they came out. “That’s when my world collided. That’s when my world exploded.”

Investigators haven’t yet revealed the cause of the fire. They say it could take weeks.

Thomas says it was an e-bike battery.

Emily’s long-time boyfriend had recently purchased a new motorized bike. He was excited to bring it home and show Emily how it worked, Thomas says.

“When he went to plug it in, it exploded on him,” said Emily’s step-father. “And he was trying to put out the fire with the fire extinguisher, and he was getting severely burned.”

The couple got out of the condo but without their dog, Benji.

“Her baby, it was her baby. Some people might think of, it’s just a dog. It was her kid. I don’t care what anybody would say. Mostly anyone would run back in for their child,” Thomas said.

Firefighters say the fumes from the fire were so strong that Emily might only have had two breaths’ worth of time in the condo.

A neighbor of the couple who works as a nurse ran to the boyfriend’s aid and held him back from returning to the blaze as he screamed and wept. The nurse, Lynn Shears, described the scene in a harrowing account on Tuesday.

“It’s really sad, because I know he was working so hard to get to his girlfriend,” Shears said. “It was pretty hard to see that... that he loved her so much.”

Both Emily and Benji died. Emily’s boyfriend is fighting for his life in the hospital, Thomas says.

For those who knew Emily, including her coworkers at the Mobil gas station in Anderson, the news was surreal.

“We were upset,” said coworker Jennifer Berry. “We couldn’t believe it.”

Emily worked at the gas station for six years and developed family-like relationships with her coworkers and boss, Ashok Patel.

Patel broke down into tears talking about her.

“I hope she’s in heaven resting in peace and in heaven,” he said.

Thomas is comforted seeing the impact Emily made on friends, family and coworkers. Still, as any mother would, she says she would do anything to hold her daughter one last time.

“You can have my home. You can have my car, any material possession I own,” she said. “You can have anything. Please just tell me that she’s still alive.”

Emily’s funeral is set for 9 a.m. on Nov. 5 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The family ask that everyone keeps Emily’s boyfriend in your prayers.

An online fundraiser is set up to help pay for funeral and memorial expenses.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please include the title when you click here to report it.