NORTHFIELD CENTER, Ohio– Loved ones are remembering the Mather family, killed when their home exploded Monday night in Northfield Center.
The explosion happened at about 8:40 p.m. on Skyhaven Road in the township in northern Summit County. Neighbors said they tried to rescue the family but were overwhelmed by smoke, and it took several fire departments to extinguish the fire.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office said first responders recovered the bodies of two adults and their two children. All four were pronounced dead at the scene. The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the adult victims as Jeffrey Mather, 43, and Cynthia Mather, 43. Neighbors identified the children as Ruthie, 8, and Alyson, 12.
“They were super people, the mother was kind of like a mom to a lot of the kids in the neighborhood,” next door neighbor Mike Mahan said. “She used to care for other kids coming from families that had problems and Cindy would take them in and take care of them.”
The Mathers were founding members of The Rock Community Church in Garfield Heights. Pastor David Brunelle said Jeff was a deacon at the church for 13 years and he and Cindy, as well as their daughters, were active in serving at the church.
“Their lives touched many people, and they will be deeply missed by many,” Brunelle said in a statement, adding that the victims’ family is asking for privacy.
According to Cindy Mather’s Facebook page, she worked as a tutor at KidsLink Neurobehavioral Center in Twinsburg.
“The KidsLink Family is deeply saddened by the loss of our fellow coworkers,” Katrina Mullen, a manager at the location, told Fox 8 News. “Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with the family and community as we all grieve the loss of this very special woman and her family.”
Neighbors said Alyson was home schooled. The Nordonia Hills School District confirmed Ruthie was a second grader at Northfield Elementary School, and Cindy often volunteered at the school.
“It was heartbreaking, just an awful, awful tragedy,” said Nordonia Hills Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark. “I would just tell parents, ‘hug your kids.’ It’s unspeakable what happened last night, and I met with the staff this morning to talk to them to prepare them for the day and tears were just flowing.”
Clark posted a letter to parents on the district’s web site and said teachers spoke to students in first through fourth grades at the start of the school day Tuesday. He said students were given time to draw or write to help deal with their emotions. Additional counselors were also on hand at the school.
“They were great neighbors, they really were,” said Joani Mahan. “They were just really nice people, thoughtful, kind.”