AVONDALE ESTATES, Ga. - A DeKalb County community is devastated by the loss of a mother and daughter after a deadly house fire Saturday night.
Tony Powers was one of dozens of people who brought teddy bears and flowers to the charred remains of the Willadsens' home on Lakeshore Drive. He told Channel 2’s Liz Artz he had known Tami Willadsen for 30 years. He said he was her father's business partner and was even at her wedding when she married Dave Willadsen.
“His whole life he loved his wife, he loved his kids,” Powers said.
Neighbors said Tami, Dave and their two children, 10-year-old Jess and 5-year-old Jack, had a house warming party Saturday night right before the fire broke out. They had moved into their Avondale Estates home just three weeks ago. It was a dream house for them that sat on a lake.
“They were living the dream having moved to the place where they wanted to live,” Powers said.
Fire investigators said the house caught fire sometime around 11 p.m. Powers said Tami and Dave ran into the sleeping children’s bedroom to rescue them, but only Dave and Jack made it out alive.
"Praying for Jack. I did find out that they’re going to keep him in a medically induced coma for a few weeks to get pressure and swelling down -- to take care of burns,” Powers said.
Funds have been set up to help Dave and Jack when they are released from the hospital.
"David's lost everything, the only thing he has left is Jack. He doesn't have any belongings or anything,” Powers said.
Fire investigators said they won’t have an official cause for some time. Powers said the house was new, maybe four or five years old.
Ed Rieker, the mayor of Avondale Estates, released a statement in the wake of the deadly fire:
Please be aware that tragedy has struck our community with the house fire that consumed 70 Lakeshore Drive on Saturday evening and damaged nearby homes. It saddens me deeply to inform you that two of our beloved neighbors perished and a third was seriously injured. There just are no words that can convey the sense of loss we are experiencing as a community.
Many friends and neighbors have begun efforts to help the families that were affected by this tragedy. We are a caring, close-knit community that will pull together to assist the affected families and we will pass along more information on how you might help.