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MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hundreds of people gathered at a western Kentucky church Friday evening to remember the lives of nine family members killed in a house fire.
Friends and family of the Watsons lit candles to honor the lives taken too soon. They came to Calvary Baptist Church Central City, Ky. to try and make sense of the biggest tragedy they've ever known.
Curtis McGehee, the Muhlenberg County Sheriff and personal friend of the family, said he can't seem to put the appropriate words together to express what a loss it is.
"They're going to be greatly missed and they were an asset to our community," Sheriff McGehee said.
Many say they'll comfort one another by recalling memories of the family.
"They fell asleep on the altar and it was so precious," said Melissa Lear.
Kentucky State Police say LaRae "Nikki" Watson and eight of her nine children died of smoke inhalation, according to autopsy results from the state medical examiner's office.
Kylie Watson, 11, is recovering in at Vanderbilt Medical Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., along with her father, Chad Watson. Both are listed in critical but stable condition.
Friday, Kylie Watson began communicating with nurses at the hospital.
"I just broke down. I could not sleep last night. I tossed and turned. I cried just knowing. It's heart breaking," Lear said. "This is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody will be there for them."
Investigators say an electric baseboard heater ignited the deadly fire.
"This is the worst thing I've ever seen in this town and I hope I don't ever experience it again," Lear said.
"There has been a great outpouring of love and support for this family. This family is well loved," Sheriff McGehee said. "I tell people they were not only a big family but they had a lot of love and brought a lot of energy wherever they went."
At the scene of the fire in the small town of Depoy, there are remnants of a once large and vibrant family: a burned bicycle, charred clothing, the family van still wrapped in police tape and what appeared to be the family Bible.
"I was just surprised and shocked, it's a small town, everybody here is just family and friends," said Shawn Bard, who grew up just a few houses away.
Earlier Friday, Bard was among a steady stream of visitors who passed by the scene.
"Something like this has never happened here before, I mean it's a tight-knit community, I'm sure everyone will pull together and do what they can," Bard said.
"This is just tragic that you could lose so many lives in one fire. And you know the volunteer firefighters did the best they could because you got a father and a daughter who are laying in the hospital that really don't even know what's going on," said Terry Sager, another visitor at the scene. "And they probably don't even know they've lost their whole family and their house and everything they've got."
Bank officials say they've been flooded with visitors and phone calls from those wanting to help, some offering to pay for the funerals.
"We can't replace what they've lost, but certainly it is our desire to make their lives better going forward," said Peggy Williams, region president at Old National Bank.
To donate the Watson family, there are three options:
1. Old National Bank -- "Calvary Baptist Church Watson Family"
2. First Kentucky Bank -- "Watson Family Memorial Fund"
3. Commonwealth Community Bank -- "Calvary Baptist Church Watson Family Fund"