Two young sons of a Montgomery County deputy sheriff died in a house fire early Wednesday in Schwenksville, authorities said.
The house, on the 900 block of Summit Avenue, belongs to Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Bryan Lukens and his family, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Lukens' two sons, Bryan Jr., 11, and Parker, 6, were found dead on the second floor of the home after the fire was extinguished, authorities said.
Shortly after 5 a.m., dispatchers received numerous calls reporting the fire, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Timothy Greene said. Fire crews arrived to find the house ablaze, Greene said, and three occupants outside.
The father, Bryan Lukens, was hospitalized in the burn unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital, but was expected to be released Wednesday afternoon, the sheriff's office said. His wife, Tracy, and their 9-year-old daughter, Soffia, were taken to Pottstown Hospital and were released, according to the office.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lukens family as they grieve their losses," Montgomery County Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny said in the statement.
Family friend Kyle Boelter quickly set up a GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $100,000 as of early Wednesday evening.
Bryan Jr. and Boelter's son, whom he did not wish to identify, had been friends for years, Boelter said.
Bryan Jr. "was respectful. He was quiet," Boelter said. But "he liked to have fun. He loosened up around his friends."
In summers, Bryan Jr. would be at his house often, Boelter said. The boys would play basketball in the driveway or Xbox in the basement.
Boelter's son and Bryan Jr. played together on a baseball team when they were 6 years old, Boelter said, and he remembered Bryan Jr. as a good player.
"He had some speed," Boelter said, "a lot of heart, and a lot of determination."
Bryan Jr.'s younger brother, Parker, made an impression, too, even as a newborn brought to the games.
"He was always a ball of energy, always had a smile on his face," Boelter said. "He was a little sparkplug."
And Parker always had a protector in his big brother, who often was known as "LJ," short for "Lukens Jr.," Boelter said.
"LJ always looked after his brother," Boelter said.
The boys' father has been a Montgomery County deputy sheriff for more than three years, according to a May 2014 release from the county, and previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Sergeant Infantry Team Leader in Iraq.
He graduated from Montgomery County Community College with an associate degree in fine arts. Much of his artwork depicted scenes from his two tours of duty in Iraq, the college said in a 2010 news release.
As news of the tragedy spread, some friends of the family took to Facebook Wednesday afternoon, asking for prayers and donations to the GoFundMe, especially in light of the upcoming holiday.
"My heart aches for you and your family Bryan," Mark Kaiser wrote on Facebook. "Stay strong brother!"
The Lukens family bought the two-story, three-bedroom Summit Avenue home in 2010, according to property records. It sits in a neighborhood near the Perkiomen Creek.
The fire was extinguished in about a half-hour, but the home sustained "a lot of damage," Greene said. State Police fire marshals were investigating the blaze's cause and origin, with assistance from the county, he said.