‘That was her heart’: Family grieves for grandmother, granddaughter, and friend killed in fire

LINCOLNTON — A family is grieving after three people died in a house fire in Lincolnton, and a survivor says one victim died while trying to save the others.

Loved ones told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon that a grandmother, her 5-year-old granddaughter, and a family friend couldn’t get out as flames destroyed their home Wednesday morning on Cloudburst Circle.

Lemon spoke with a man who was able to escape the flames. Hakeem Stansford, 19, stood in the charred shell of his home on Thursday after being the only one to make it out of the fire.

Hakeem Stansford stands in the home that burned down earlier this week in Lincolnton

Stansford says he was asleep Wednesday morning when his father, 47-year-old Joseph Phelps, ran into the room.

“He said it’s a fire,” Stansford told Lemon.

They then went into an empty bedroom and saw the flames spreading fast. Stansford said he went out the back door, but Phelps made a fast decision.

“He said he was going to back and get my grandma, and that’s when he got caught in it,” Stansford said.

Stansford told Lemon that he ran to the front of the house and kicked in the door, but then flames shot out at him.

A neighbor called 911 as the house burned, and she interrupted her call to try and save the son who was determined to help his family.

“Get back from it,” she said during the 911 call.

Medics took him to the hospital, but Stansford had questions.

“I kept asking and asking, did my grandma and them make it out? They wouldn’t tell me,” Stansford said.

The charred remains of a home after a deadly fire in Lincolnton

Family members told Lemon that 66-year-old Pattier Harbinson and 5-year-old Kateria Little died in the fire with Phelps.

“She was a good lady, my momma took care of a lot of people,” said Teresa Moore, Harbinson’s daughter.

Moore called her mother a perfect woman who did everything she could to help anyone in need.

She said Harbinson raised her grandchildren and especially loved the five-year-old girl who died.

“That was her heart, that was her heart,” Moore told Lemon.

The fire marshal’s office started looking into the cause of the fire with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

On Thursday, the Lincoln County Fire Marshal’s office announced that the fire was “accidental and caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.”

(WATCH: 3 firefighters hospitalized following 2-alarm house fire in north Charlotte)