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Special Forces soldier, daughters die in burning home

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 6, 2012 -- Updated 2127 GMT (0527 HKT)
Tinderbox conditions in an old home led to an intense fire that killed a U.S. soldier and his two daughters, officials say.
Tinderbox conditions in an old home led to an intense fire that killed a U.S. soldier and his two daughters, officials say.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Edward Duane Cantrell died trying to save his young girls, ages 4 and 6
  • Cantrell returned in August from his latest overseas deployment
  • The Green Beret had four Bronze stars and a Purple Heart

(CNN) -- A decorated U.S. soldier died Tuesday morning along with his two young daughters as he attempted to rescue the girls from their burning North Carolina home, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said.

Chief Warrant Officer II Edward Duane Cantrell, 36, was a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg.

The Green Beret had returned in August from his latest overseas deployment, said Lt. Col. April Olsen, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Services Command at Fort Bragg.

His wife, Louise, told officials the family was upstairs when the fire broke out just before 2 a.m. Tuesday in Hope Mills, a suburb of Fayetteville.

She jumped from a second-floor window and ran next door to call for help while her husband went to get their daughters, ages, 4 and 6, said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

"They never made it out," Tanna said.

Local media reports say Cantrell and his two young daughters, Natalia and Isabella, died from smoke inhalation.

Louise Cantrell was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, Tanna told CNN affiliate WRAL.

Officials believe the family's century-old home had tinderbox conditions that led to "a very intense fire."

Military officials said the Fort Bragg soldier had completed six deployments, including one to Iraq and five to Afghanistan.

He had four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his service, according to the Army Special Operations Command.

"There are no words to express the sorrow felt in our close-knit community when one of our families suffers such a loss," Olsen said.

CNN's Rick Martin and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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