9 firefighters die in blaze

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“They were struggling. They were covered in black soot. They looked scared out of their minds,” he said.

He later told CNN the roof collapsed too quickly for anyone to escape.

“It came from nowhere,” he said. “It was a standing structure and five seconds later it was on the ground.”

Gov. Mark Sanford ordered state flags lowered to half-staff. “These are truly some of South Carolina’s bravest, who in this case made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” he said.

Store owner Herb Goldstein said there were no words to express his sorrow.

“All of us at Sofa Super Store are devastated and heartbroken by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the heroic firefighters who lost their lives,” he said.

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