11-year-old girl dies trying to save puppies from fire in Florida home

An 11-year-old Florida girl was killed when she bravely ran back inside a burning home to try rescuing two puppies, according to officials and family members.

Rilee Beisler, a sixth-grader at McIntosh Middle School, died Wednesday during the blaze at the Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, the county sheriff’s office said.

Rilee, who moved to the RV park six months ago with her mother, had initially fled the home — but went back in for the pups despite pleas to stay outside, her aunt, Laura Alden, told WFLA.

“She really loves animals, and that’s actually how it happened,” Alden said. “She was going back into the house for the dogs. She loved those dogs.”

Neighbors had tried to stop Rilee from going back inside, to no avail, Alden said.

Riley's aunt, Laura Alden described Riley as having a "heart of gold."
Rilee’s aunt Laura Alden described her as having a “heart of gold.”

“They tried to stop her, but Rilee was the kind of kid, if she wants it, she was going to go for it,” her aunt said. “Stubborn pre-teen.”

Rilee Beisler (right) is pictured with her mother, Megan Johnson.
Rilee Beisler (right) with her mother, Megan Johnson

“That speaks volumes about who she was, because she was out of the fire, she was out of the house, and she went back in it,” Alden added.

Rilee is believed to have died of smoke inhalation, authorities said. Detectives are investigating her death along with the medical examiner’s office.

“She had a heart of gold,” her aunt said.

“She loves those dogs. They were a pain in the butt. They were 7-month-old pit bull puppies and, you know, puppies are hyper but she loved those dogs and those were her babies.”

The fire does not appear to be criminal in nature, though that investigation, conducted by the state fire marshal, is ongoing.

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