NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - A woman was found dead in the aftermath of a house fire in New Albany on Friday morning.
“She was just a nice, nice person,” neighbor Anne Bannet said.
Bannet and her close friend, Ann Sadtler, watched as crews clean up the remains of a home along Ridgeway Avenue in New Albany. Much of the home was destroyed.
The women said they and everyone else in the neighborhood knew the woman who lived inside -- Sarah Smith. Both neighbors recently moved out of the Silver Hills neighborhood, but when they heard about the fire, they knew they needed to come.
“And to see her house in that condition, that’s spooky,” Bannet said.
Neighbors alerted firefighters that a woman lived inside the home when the fire broke out around 7 a.m. Friday in the normally quiet neighborhood. Firefighters searched for the woman numerous times but did not find her inside the home.
When the flames were out, a later search found her body inside her car in the home’s attached garage.
"I'm just so shocked I don't know what to think," Bannet said. "Yeah," Sadtler said in agreement.
They said Smith lived alone -- her husband had recently passed. Both Sadtler and Bannet agreed Smith was very involved with her church and her community, was a strong woman and always pleasant.
“You would like her because she was just an upbeat person," Sadtler said. “She really was.”
Bannet added: “She always looked at the bright side.”
Neighbors said the fire happened quickly and the smoke pouring out of the home was intense.
The fire department stayed at the home for hours, investigating what caused the fire. A cause has not been released.
In the afternoon, crews worked to board up the once-beautiful home, now scarred by flames.
“We’re very saddened," Bannet said. “And I think at the same time I hate that this happened to her but maybe she’s in heaven right now.”
Smith’s friends said they’ll miss her, but hope she finds peace.