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Vevay family says eldest child died in 'act of selflessness' trying to save five siblings from fire

Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 30, 2020

VEVAY, Ind. — Paige Ridener, 25, went home to Vevay roughly two weeks ago to help look after her younger siblings. She died trying to pull them out of the fire that consumed their home, according to a statement released Monday by the Ridener family.

"She heroically passed away in one final act of selflessness, by bravely attempting to save those she loved," her surviving family members wrote.

The fire that killed Paige early Saturday morning also claimed the lives of her five younger siblings: James Samuel, 15, ; Jordan Thomas, 13; Joshua Austin, 12; Emily Alyssa, 11; and Elizabeth Grace, 10. All five were biological siblings who had been adopted into Paige's family after spending time — some of it separated from one another — in the foster system.

Family members said Paige, who had also been adopted by the Rideners, loved them deeply.

"Paige was deeply passionate about all of her brothers and sisters even though she had moved to the greater Louisville area to attend college and further her career in the hospitality industry," they wrote. "She took every opportunity to be with all of her family members, including the one that brought her back to Switzerland County two weeks ago, to help care for her siblings due to recent events."

Paige's boyfriend, who had also been visiting Vevay, was the only survivor. Police said he escaped the house and then attempted to re-enter to save the siblings, but the fire and smoke were too heavy. Neighbor Chris Bolton, a retired firefighter, unsuccessfully tried to do the same.

The investigation will be a complicated one due to the extent of the fire and the significant loss of life, according to state investigators.

“Investigations like this take quite a while to gather all of the facts and all the information we need to make a conclusion," said Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police.

Wheeles explained the investigation is a combined effort with the state fire marshal's office, which does not suspect foul play but also has not publicly identified the cause of the fire.

"They’re going to take their time and investigate it thoroughly and collect some evidence,” Wheeles said.

Read the Ridener family's complete statement:

Early Saturday morning, we lost six family members in a tragic accidental house fire. There are no words to express the hole that has formed in the hearts of our family members as a result of this tragic loss of six innocent young lives. We have found solace and comfort in the overwhelming love and support that Switzerland County residents, as well as the surrounding Tri-State communities, have shared with our family during this difficult time.

In July 2010, Sam, Jordan, and Austin were placed in our care through the Indiana Department of Child Services. Their two sisters, Grace and Emily, were placed in a different foster home and when there was an opportunity, in October 2011, to reunite them all into one household, our family did just that.

In 2013, after attempting to reunite them with any interested member of the biological family, Lisa and Darwin "Dobbie" Ridener adopted them into our family where they have been loved and cared for ever since. Paige Ridener became a part of our family in 2007, and was legally adopted in 2010. Paige was deeply passionate about all of her brothers and sisters even though she had moved to the greater Louisville area to attend college and further her career in the hospitality industry.

She took every opportunity to be with all of her family members, including the one that brought her back to Switzerland County two weeks ago, to help care for her "siblings" due to recent events.

She heroically passed away in one final act of selflessness, by bravely attempting to save those she loved.

We want to again thank all of the first responders who we know did everything they could to save the ones we love. The family is requesting that the media respects our need for privacy as we take time to process the loss of six of our family members.

Respectfully,
The Ridener Family