CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The 10-year-old who was killed in a house fire in Cartersville Friday morning was the son of former University of Georgia quarterback Cory Phillips, family friends said.
Those close to Phillips said his three children were staying with their grandmother, while he and his wife were out of town.
All four of them were inside the home on Galway Drive at the start of the fire. Two children and their grandmother are recovering from burns but Walker Phillips did not make it.
Walker was a fourth-grader at North Cobb Christian School. His school sent out this email notifying parents of his passing, asking for the community to pray for the Phillips family.
Phillips was a star football player at the school. Just four months ago, he was featured as their spotlight athlete.
His father, Cory, was a quarterback at UGA from 1999-2002, and his mother Courtney was a gymnast at the school.
The head of the school, Todd Clingman, said all of Phillips' children have attended North Cobb Christian since preschool. Walker's brother, Cannon, is a sixth-grader there and his sister, Aiden, is in ninth grade.
Walker's fourth-grade teacher was Mrs. Julie Bare.
"Walker is a leader in our classroom, especially among the boys," she wrote to 11Alive in an email. "He's just a great role model. A phenomenal athlete, he always makes sure that everyone is included during recess and P.E., regardless of their own abilities. He was always looking out for the underdog."
His principal, Wendy Titus, echoes that sentiment. She sent a statement to 11Alive calling him a tenderhearted kid.
"He was quick to take the core values that we always talk about at NCCS and live them out, which are love, integrity, respect, responsibility and service," Titus wrote. "He really served others well."
Titus added that Walker was often recognized and praised for his positive character among his classmates.
"This year, he was voted by his classmates as being the student that most displays joy. He received a special chapel award for joy in November," she said.
Clingman said they have had teachers, counselors and support staff on-hand to help students and parents through this grieving process.
He writes to 11Alive:
"Our day started before 6 a.m. as we got the news of the fire at the Phillips' home. All three of their children attend North Cobb Christian School: Walker, who was a fourth-grader at NCCS, Cannon in sixth grade, and Aiden in ninth grade. The Phillips family has been at NCCS since their children were in preschool. They are a beloved part of the fabric of our school family. Our teachers, counselors and support staff spent the day communicating with and counseling students and parents with honesty and compassion. There were a lot of tears and a lot of prayers. This family means so much to us. North Cobb Christian School's close-knit community really becomes a lifeline during times like these. We know that this will be a journey, both for the Phillips family and for our students and faculty, and we are committed to supporting the family and our greater school community each step of the way. We covet everyone's prayers as we do so."
Emergency responders got the call around 3 a.m., firefighters said.
"Upon arrival, the structure was found significantly involved," Cartersville Fire said in a news release.
The agency said it took more than 20 firefighters and several hours to douse the flames. Firefighters said four people were inside the home, including the 10-year-old. The other three made it out safely.
11Alive Skytracker flew over the aftermath Friday afternoon. Video shows the large home was destroyed in the fire with much of it charred and burnt. A portion of the roof had seemingly collapsed, images show.
Cartersville Fire, the Georgia State Fire Marshals Office and the Bartow County Medical Examiner and Coroner's Office are working to learn the cause of the fire.
Dear NCCS Family,
Devastatingly, we have received confirmation that Walker did not survive the fire last night. Please be in prayer for the Phillips family and for our NCCS community.
We will continue to keep everyone updated with details on how to support the family moving forward. Please know that our faculty and staff will also continue to provide ongoing support for our students as we navigate this immense loss together.
I know many of you will be having continued conversations with your children this weekend, as well. Our counseling staff shared the Grieving Child’s Bill of Rights today, which may be helpful for you at home. I pray that your conversations go well and that gospel seeds will be planted.
Head of School