Four Killed In Fire Blamed On Child Playing With Matches
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ A child playing with matches caused a fire that swept through a house here Wednesday, killing four members of one family and injuring six other people, authorities said.
Two young children escaped serious injury after being dropped from a second-floor window into the arms of a friend, according to fire officials and witnesses.
The blaze started when one of four young children in the house accidentally ignited clothing on a coat rack in the kitchen of the two-story house, said Ronald Evans. He declined to name the child.
Killed were Lionel J. Tardiff, 63; his wife Rita, 62; their grandson Shawn Tardiff, 5; and Angela Gilbert, 2, who neighbors said was also a grandchild of the dead couple.
Two other grandchildren, brothers of the dead children, were saved when they were dropped outside by Sandra Tardiff, 19, officials and witnesses said.
″The babies are all right. They just cried,″ said Norman Crochere, a former neighbor who was working across the street and ran over when he heard a woman crying for help.
″I saw Sandy ... she was yelling, ’There’s babies in here,‴ said Crochere, 28.
″I went around the side ... I told her to throw the babies ’cause we can’t get in,″ he said. ″I stopped their fall.″
Then the woman jumped, and Crochere said he helped break her fall. As Crochere and James Thayer, 33, helped her away, ″she said there’s more babies in there,″ Crochere said. ″It was too late.″
The construction of the wood-frame house, combined with high winds, caused the fire to spread quickly, said Andrew Cooper of the Augusta Fire Department. Winds were gusting up to 40 miles an hour in the area Wednesday morning, said a spokesman for the National Weather Service bureau in Portland.
An autopsy showed all the victims died of smoke inhalation, Evans said.
Those injured included four people who had been inside the house, who suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to minor burns and smoke inhalation. One firefighter was treated for a back injury and another sought treatment for a shoulder injury, officials said.