Penn. Teacher and Her 4 Grandchildren Killed in House Fire: 'It's Just Devastating'

Rosemarie LaBarre, 53, was taking care of her grandchildren — who were between the ages of 2 and 7 — when the fire broke out, officials tell PEOPLE

Ribera Family
Kathryn, Kaleb, Kristian, and Kasper Ribera. Photo: Go Fund Me

Four young children and their grandmother were tragically killed in a house fire that engulfed a Pennsylvania home late Thursday evening.

Rosemarie LaBarre, 53, and her four grandchildren — who were between the ages of 2 and 7 — were killed in the fire, which broke out around 11 p.m., the Monroe County Coroner's Office tells PEOPLE.

At the time of the fire, LaBarre had been "left to care for her grandchildren," officials say.

All five individuals were pronounced dead at the scene, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release, noting that their preliminary investigation indicated the fire was "accidental in nature with nothing suspicious being observed at the scene." An investigation is ongoing.

"Our hearts go out to the family. I can't say this enough," Trooper Anthony Petroski told NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV.

Ribera Family
Ribera family. Go Fund Me

At the time of the fire, Markie Ribera — LaBarre's daughter — as well as her husband Carlos were not home, family friend Jessica McCormic told local newspaper The Express-Times. That night, both parents were at a nearby farm where Carlos works.

"It's just devastating," McCormic, who has also organized a GoFundMe for the family, told the newspaper.

"Those four little kids were everything to her," she added, identifying the kids as Kathryn, Kaleb, Kristian and Kasper Ribera.

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LaBarre was a beloved member of the East Hills Middle School community, having taught at the school since 2008, according to The Express-Times.

"It is just a brutal tragedy," Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy told the newspaper. "It was a shock."

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The school district has also confirmed that two of the children were homeschooled elementary students, per WFMZ.

"This loss is incomprehensible, and these deaths leave us without words to express our grief or even attempt to understand this incredible loss," Roy said in a statement obtained by the outlet. "As a school community, we extend our deepest condolences."

A tribute shared over the weekend recognized LaBarre for her involvement in a local children's ministry.

"Mom, I love you so much [heart emoji] I had this planned to post today before everything, and I am so so glad I did," her daughter Markie wrote on her own Facebook page on Monday.

"I would not be who I am today without you," she added. "And as much as this hurts, there is some comfort in knowing you escorted our babies to heaven and had a beautiful reunion with Pappy [heart emoji]."

Those interested in donating to the Ribera family's GoFundMe, which has raised over $110,000 as of Monday morning, can do so here.

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