Green Beret dies try­ing to save daugh­ters from fire

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY MICHAEL BIESECKER AND EMERY P. DALE­SIO

HOPE MILLS, N.C. | A dec­o­rated Green Beret who re­turned from his fifth de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan last sum­mer died Tues­day try­ing to res­cue his two young daugh­ters from their burn­ing home near Fort Bragg. The girls were also killed in the blaze.

Ed­ward Cantrell and his wife es­caped from the 1 a.m. blaze by jump­ing from the home’s sec­ond floor, the Cum­ber­land County sher­iff’s of­fice said. Mr. Cantrell then wrapped him­self in a blan­ket and re-en­tered the burn­ing home in Hope Mills, about 10 miles from the Army base that is home to the Green Berets and other Spe­cial Forces units, sher­iff ’s spokes­woman Deb­bie Tanna said.

Mr. Cantrell, 36, was try­ing to reach 6-year-old Is­abella and 4year- old Natalia, who were trapped in sec­ond- floor bed­rooms, Ms. Tanna said.

“He never made it back out,” Ms. Tanna said. Fire­fight­ers found their bod­ies in­side the home.

Ms. Tanna said the tim­bers in the old home, which was built in 1920, were likely very dry, caus­ing a fast-mov­ing blaze. The cause of the fire is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A sign at the end of the drive­way blocked with yel­low po­lice tape says “The Cantrells Est. Feb. 7, 2004.” Bou­quets of flow­ers and two teddy bears had been placed nearby.

Fire­fight­ers from Cot­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, which is less than two miles away, were on the scene within four min­utes of re­ceiv­ing the dis­patch call. As­sis­tant Chief Kevin Dove said the house was al­ready en­gulfed in flames.

“They per­ished be­fore our ar­rival,” said As­sis­tant Chief Dove, a veteran fire­fighter. “It was hor­ri­ble.”

The three bod­ies were all re­cov­ered on the sec­ond floor, he said. It did not ap­pear the fa­ther was able to reach the girls.

Mrs. Cantrell was treated for smoke in­hala­tio­nand re­leased from a Fayetteville hospi­tal, As­sis­tant Chief Dove said. The fam­ily dog, a Rot­tweiler named Sasha, also sur­vived the fire and was be­ing kept by neigh­bors.

Mr. Cantrell was a mem­ber of the 3rd Spe­cial Forces Group at Fort Bragg. He held the rank of chief war­rant of­fi­cer 2, which au­tho­rized Mr. Cantrell to lead half of his 12-mem­ber Green Beret team if it was split up, said Lt. Col. April Olsen, a spokes­woman for Army Spe­cial Forces Com­mand.

He joined the Army in 1994 and had one combat de­ploy­ment to Iraq and five to Afghanistan, re­turn­ing from the last mis­sion in Au­gust, Lt. Col. Olsen said. His record in­cluded four Bronze Stars and one Pur­ple Heart. De­tails of the acts that earned the medals were not im­me­di­ately avail­able, she said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A fire­fighter ex­its the front of a heav­ily dam­aged two-story home in Hope Mills, N.C., on Tues­day. A Spe­cial Forces sol­dier died try­ing to res­cue his two young daugh­ters dur­ing a fire at the house. Ed­ward Cantrell, Is­abella Cantrell, 6, and Natalia Cantrell, 4, per­ished in the blaze.

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