National Digest

NATIONAL DIGEST

September 13, 2004

Four children killed in S.C. mobile home fire

GILBERT, S.C. - Four young children died when fire engulfed their rural mobile home, and state investigators were called in to help determine the cause of the blaze, officials said yesterday.

The home outside Gilbert was engulfed in flames when emergency crews arrived Saturday afternoon. "They [mobile homes] can burn pretty rapidly. There was nothing they could do to save the children who were in the home," said Lexington County sheriff's Capt. John Allard.

Autopsies were scheduled for the children, identified only as 5-year-old twins and their siblings ages 3 and 2. The children's mother, Natasha Pierce, 23, escaped from the house and was taken to Augusta, Ga., for treatment of severe burns, Allard said. "At this point, we have not found any evidence foul play was involved, but we can't rule anything out," he said.

Fla. woman injured after drinking laced soda

COOPER CITY, Fla. - A supermarket worker was critically injured after drinking from a soda that was laced with a caustic substance, authorities said yesterday.

Santosh Malhotra, 68, was hospitalized with chemical burns to her mouth and throat, Broward sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal said. He described her condition as critical.

Malhotra drank from a 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke that was refrigerated in an employee-only area of a Winn-Dixie store Saturday, authorities said. She felt a burning sensation, spat out the liquid and vomited.

Officials did not say whether the bottle had been opened before Malhotra took a drink. An initial test showed the presence of a substance similar to a weed killer. Leljedal said authorities believe the incident was isolated, but did not know whether Malhotra had been specifically targeted.

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