Family speaks out after Schuyler County fire takes two young lives


(WETM) – Two lives were tragically lost in a house fire in the Town of Reading.

2-year-old Duane Kernan and 20-year-old Katlyn Kernan died in the fire on Tuesday morning.

Their family members gathered in the home of Duane’s grandfather, Charles Griswold. Stories were swapped and pictures were shared as tears trickled down their grief-stricken faces.

“I just don’t understand why he was taken at such a young age,” Griswold asked in a moving interview. “My first grandchild and I only get two years of his life, and that’s not fair.”

Cheyenne Williams, 21, the young mother of Duane, sat next to her family members reminiscing Duane’s caring heart.

“He was a cheerful little boy, he loved everyone, he loved everything, he loved cats he loves dogs and his favorite thing was chasing a cat that was here (Griswold’s home),” Williams said with a painful smile.

Duane had a special bond with his grandparents and feel they grieve as if they have lost their own child.

“The void I had in my life my grandson filled it for me, and it’s gone,” Griswold shared. “I just feel my purpose with him not fulfilled with him.”

Kevin Kernan, father of the child, not only lost his son but his sister as well.

“I don’t wish this on anyone, seeing a son, and his sister, I don’t wish this on anyone,” said Kevin.

A community member has donated a house rent-free for 2 months, and the family is now looking for furniture and household items to be donated for the family.

Two GoFundMe’s, which have been verified by the family, have been established by family friends. One of the fundraisers has raised more than $7,000 in just a couple of hours.

According to one of the GoFundMe’s, “the family is in need of housing, food, clothing,  money for funeral expenses and prayers.”

Checks can be mailed to: The Kernan Family Memorial Fund,
C/O RPA#24
P.O. Box 346
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Cash donation may be made at Chemung Canal Trust Company into the Kernan Family Memorial Fund.

Donation items ( i.e.- clothing and household) can be dropped off at Landon’s Pub and Pizza
110 west 4th street, Watkins Glen 14891, or at Montour Motors on 132 North Cathrine Street in Montour Falls.

Sizes for the clothing are:

  • Ladies shirts: Medium
  • Ladies pants: 5-7
  • Ladies shoe size: 7, 7 1/2, 10
  • Men’s shirts: Medium/ Large
  • Men’s pants 32×30
  • Men’s shoe size: 81/2- 9 wide.

Fire departments across Schuyler, Steuben, Chemung, and Yates Counties responded to 3320 County Route 28 in the Town of Reading for the fire shortly before 10:00 a.m. Crews battled the fire for several hours and had to ensure the structure was stable before entering the second floor.

Because of the area, fire crews were forced to pull water out of a hydrant at the bottom of a hill and transporting it up to the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Fire Investigators from the Office of Fire Prevention and Control are assisting Sheriff Investigators.

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