WHATELY, Mass. (WWLP) - The mother and daughter killed in a fire at their Whately home late Wednesday night have been identified.
Mary Carey, spokesperson for the Northwestern District Attorney's Office notified 22News that the victims of the fire are Sonia Golonka, 64, and Mary Golonka, 94.
Whately Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Gary Stone told 22News that the women were trapped inside their burning home at 6 State Road. One of the women was found on the staircase, while another was still trapped in bed.
According to Jennifer Mieth of the state Department of Fire Services , the fire was caused by a malfunction of the home's fireplace. "The fire started underneath the floor of an old prefabricated fireplace where, over time, the fireproof brick had cracked and the metal fireplace rusted and decayed. This allowed heat and possibly sparks from the woodstove and fireplace to come in contact with structural members," Meith wrote in a statement sent to 22News.
The news has brought feelings of shock and sorrow to people in this small and close-knit Franklin County town. Three generations of the Golonka family have farmed the land and sold their vegetables in town. Their newest vegetable stand is only yards from where Wednesday night's fire took the lives of the matriarch of the family and her daughter.
Fire Chief John Hannum told 22News that he had known the victims for years, and it was heartbreaking that their lives could not be saved.
"It's terrible there's no other word to describe it. It's just heartwrenching, you just don't want to drop what you're doing and go home, you feel helpless," Hannum said.
Throughout the day, neighbors gathered near the iconic Golonka vegetable stand. Each told 22News that the loss is very personal to them.
"This is the hardest working family I've ever seen. They worked 20 hours a day. This is where they sell all their vegetables, this is where I've been coming for the past 25 years," David Reed of Whately said.
"They're part of , they're sort of a fixture part of the landscape of Whately; one of the things that made it the place it is." Jack Cooper of Whately said. "It's just unbeliabable."