By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY– Fire of still unknown origin struck a housing village in General Santos City on Sunday dawn and left two American missionaries dead, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) reported.
Senior Fire Officer 1 Filamer Acub, arson investigator of the city BFP station, named the fatalities as Jonathan and Roberta Steffy, both in their late 50s and American missionaries.
He said the victims were reportedly sleeping when the fire broke out past 4 a.m. and eventually got trapped inside a house in Queenies Love Subdivision, Barangay City Heights in General Santos City.
BFP investigation was still ongoing to determine the origin of the fire and assess the extent of damages, Acub said in a Philippine News Agency report.
Acub said they immediately responded to the scene after receiving the fire call and managed to extinguish it around 5:05 a.m.
The remains of the victims, who were church planters and missionaries of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI), were later found inside the gutted bungalow.
Residents in the neighborhood, one of them Romeo Tagpuno, told reporters they were awakened by noise from the couple’s house and noticed something burning inside.
Some of them took turns in calling out the fire station and tried to help put out the fire but could not enter the gate as it was locked, Acub said.
The couple had been staying in the Philippines since 1990 as church planting missionaries under BBFI and served for some time in Vietnam as well, it was learned.
Online data said Jonathan grew up in the Philippines as a missionary kid while Roberta was from northern Indiana.
The couple, blessed with two adult children, had served in Iloilo City as part of their seventh missionary journey that started in 2012 and was involved in relief works on disasters like the Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. (AGM)
(Attached are KILLED IN FIRE: A published photo of the American couple killed in a fire on Sunday dawn in General Santos City.)