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The Deadly Sioux Falls House Fire: One Year Later

December 22, 2013, 10:00 PM by Leland Steva

The Deadly Sioux Falls House Fire: One Year Later
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It was a year ago today when Sioux Falls was shocked with the news that three children were killed in a house fire.

It may just look like an empty lot now, but a year ago the lot was full of flames, smoke, and heartbreak. Lisa Thurston lived a block away from the burning home.

"My parents actually, they were here for Christmas and we're just finishing up breakfast and we heard a lot of the sirens and the trucks and we walked down to the corner and all we could see were flames and smoke," Thurston said.

The fire took the lives of three siblings, 16-year-old Michael Hensely, 12-year-old Savannah Coon and six-year-old Alivia Coon. The two adults living at the home were outside when the authorities arrived on the scene of the blaze. The mother of the kids, Rhiannan White, sat down with KELO-TV to give a tearful recollection of what happened that day.

"I can see her. I could hear her banging on the window, yelling 'Mama'. Dave was yelling, break the window," Rhiannon White said.

The story turned in January when White was charged with with having meth, ecstasy and marijuana in her system when her house burned down. She was sentenced to six years in prison in September for  felony drug possession charges.

The damage prevented investigators from getting inside to determine what exactly started the blaze. After weeks of stabilizing it, they found out the fire started in the living area but the damage was so severe, they cannot determine how it started. An accelerant-sniffing dog walked through the home twice, and was unable to pick up any scents.

Thurston said she hasn't followed much after what happened in the fire, but she still has concerns for the White family, and she remembers those lost.

"Your always worried that someone is caught in the fire. Just kind of worried about the family who lives there, especially this close to Christmas," Thurston said.

White is eligible for parole in about 10 months, which is just enough time to complete the meth treatment program at the women's prison in Pierre.

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