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UPDATE: Three perish in St. George Island blaze

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

An early morning blaze erupted in the heart of St. George Island, taking the lives of a retired schoolteacher and her son, and her brother.

Sheriff A.J. Smith confirmed in a 1:30 p.m. Facebook Live appearance Thursday that Dr. Kay Cadwallader, 66, and her brother Thomas Maranich, 69, had been killed in the blaze, that erupted sometime around midnight Wednesday.

Cadwallader's son, Josh, was transported to the University of Florida Shands Burn Center in Gainesville in critical condition.

His father. Warren Cadwallader, of Apalachicola, said medical staff spoke with him at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday and told him nothing further could be done medically. They sought permission to remove from life support his 36-year-old son.

"They just said 'Please let him go in peace,'" he said. "I talked with him on the telephone for about 10 minutes.

"They said he could hear me. I said my goodbyes," said Cadwallader.

The early morning sky over St. George island glows from the flames of the fire

Cadwallader said he spoke with his son by telephone at about 10:45 p.m. on Wednesday, and then received a visit from deputies with the grim news at about 1:15 a.m. Thursday.

The fire took place at a 1,500 square foot wooden home at 773 West Gulf Beach Drive.. Witnesses said the fire began a little after midnight, and was under control by the island and Eastpoint volunteer fire departments by about 2:30 a.m.

The St. George Island home after the blaze.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion at some point before or during the fire. 

"This fire investigation is open and ongoing and no further information is available at this time." said Devin Galleta, communications director with the office of Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, which oversees the state fire marshall's office.

The St. George Island home prior to the blaze.

Cadwallader, often called Dr. Kay by colleagues and students, was a popular teacher and administrator whose 36-year career in the district spanned her early days at Brown Elementary on through the entire consolidation over the last 15 years. She taught pre-Kindergarten, elementary schools and ESE during her tenure, and was a guidance coordinator for several years.

Tara Klink, who now teaches at Franklin County Schools, posted on Facebook that Cadwallader had been her pre-Kindergarten teacher. 

"She was one of those teachers who stayed a part of my life. From teaching me how to tie my shoes using bunny ears (which is still how I tie bows!) to cheering me on in my professional life. I always knew she cared," wrote Klink. "She called me hours ago, right after school yesterday, and ended our conversation saying “I love you."

"I’ll cherish that call forever, not knowing it would be the last," she wrote. "I love you and I’ll miss you, Dr. Kay."