IROQUOIS COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – Neighbors in Iroquois County are processing a tragic chain of events. A house fire was only the beginning on Monday, because the owner died in a car crash just hours after it started.

“One of my siblings was panicking, watching the fire. They got the news before all of us,” neighbor Zoe Tilley said.

Then, they all watched as flames took over the second floor of their neighbor’s house.

“Mom said, ‘you can smell the wood burning,’” Tilley said. “It overwhelmed me personally. I haven’t seen anything like that, ever.”

Buckley Fire Chief Tyler Ecker said no people were inside when crews arrived around 2:48 p.m., and it took about four hours to contain a fire he says started in an upstairs bathroom. Meanwhile, according to Iroquois County Sheriff Clint Perzee, deputies were gathering information about the man and woman who lived there, and the car they left the scene in. Perzee said they forwarded a “stop and hold” on the woman and the car to Illinois State Police for medical and mental health reasons.

A few miles away, Paxton Police and Ford County Sheriff’s deputies chased 44-year-old Krista Woltz-Hernandez – the owner of the house. Around 5:12 p.m., according to state police, she lost control at the wheel, spun out, crashed into two other cars and flipped several times.

Woltz-Hernandez died. 65-year-old Julie McGowan, the second driver, also died. A third driver was sent to the hospital with injuries.

Now, authorities are left with questions, and two families are missing loved ones. Illinois State Police are still investigating the chase and the crashes. The State Fire Marshal is working to determine the cause of the fire. Both agencies say they can’t share any additional details at this time.

WCIA-3 crews spoke with several neighbors, most of whom asked to remain anonymous. They described Monday as “horrific,” “tragic,” and more “shocking” as the hours went by. One neighbor said Woltz-Hernandez left behind three children.

Chief Ecker said two pets died in the fire: a cat and a dog. Crews were able to save one cat, a bird, a turtle and a tortoise.

Authorities cannot yet confirm the nature of the open investigations, or exactly why they were pursuing Woltz-Hernandez.