11-year-old dies saving dog in Spalding County house fire, uncle says

A Spalding County house fire claimed the life of an 11-year-old girl who died trying to save her dog, according to her family who spoke first with FOX 5's Tyler Fingert on Sunday afternoon.

ORIGINAL STORY: 11-year-old dies in Spalding County house fire

It happened just outside of Griffin city limits on Sidney Drive.

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Sidney Drive in Spalding County on April 6, 2024.

Spalding County firefighters said the home was a complete loss after flames tore through it Saturday night. The victim's uncle said the whole family was devastated by 11-year-old Katelynn Simonds' sudden loss.

"Always had that smile on her face," Charles Beecher, the uncle, said. "That's what I'm going to miss."

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Katelynn (Photo submitted by family)

Pain was evident in Beecher's voice as he described his niece.

"She was a joy of life. She was a cheerleader. She was into everything. I mean, it's heartbreaking. It's hard," he said.

Beecher said the child died at around 5:30 p.m. trying to be a hero.

"She was worried about her dog upstairs, and she ran upstairs," he explained. "Katelynn, she’s like us, an animal lover. She went upstairs and got that puppy. His name was ‘Little man.’"

Katelynn and Little Man (Photo submitted by family)

Both Katelynn and Little Man never made it out.

Beecher said his family is now just left with memories.

"I helped take care of them, and always looked after them while [her mother] worked," Beecher said.

The Spalding County Fire Chief of Operations tried to save the little girl, but by the time the department arrived, the home was fully engulfed in flames. Responding firefighters were offered counseling services to help process the tragedy.

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Sidney Drive in Spalding County on April 6, 2024.

"We go in, everyone, with that attitude. We're going to do everything we can, within humanly possible, to try to make a difference," Chief of Operations Mike Byrd said. "And these stories [are] just very tragic for us."

While the team didn't suspect foul play, they're still completing an investigation as is protocol.

Just outside the home, family members and neighbors created a memorial for Katelynn.

Memorial for Katelynn Simonds

"It's hard knowing I am not going to be able to see her again," Beecher said. "It's rough. I mean, 11 years old. Her life was just taken too early."

Another family member told FOX 5 Katelynn was home with her brother and two other people when the fire broke out. The others survived.

One firefighter was injured and taken to the hospital for treatment. Investigators said they plan to release what caused the fire on Monday.

A GoFundMe has been organized to help the family lay Katelynn to rest and start over.