- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (AP) - An infant and his 5-year-old brother died Tuesday after a fire tore through their western Pennsylvania home, also burning another brother and their mother, authorities said.

Roman Whittier, 3 months, and Roman Whittier, 5, were pronounced dead at Jameson Hospital in New Castle, Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga said. The cause of their deaths wasn’t immediately released, but both had been pulled unconscious after their home caught fire about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said.

New Castle fire Chief Mark Panella said a police officer attempting to rescue residents was found inside the home after passing out from smoke inhalation. New Castle Officer Justin Warren was rescued then treated at a hospital and released.

The boys’ parents, grandmother, her companion, and two other children were also home but managed to escape.

The boys’ father, Cullen “CJ” Whittier, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he believed the fire started from a candle in the second-floor room where his sons were sleeping.

“I lost two of my boys,” Whittier told the newspaper.

Whittier said the boys’ mother, Jocelyn Burchan, and another son, 6-year-old C.J., were treated for burns and released, while 2-year-old son Gabriel escaped uninjured.

Lisa Beshero, a neighbor who called police when she heard the commotion, is a substitute teacher who had 6-year-old Cullen in her class at school.

Beshero heard the boys’ mother running in the street yelling, “I can’t lose my children,” before dialing 911.

“There was so much screaming,” Beshero said. “I’m just sick - sick to my stomach.”

A state police fire marshal was investigating.

New Castle is about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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