4 Killed in Manchester, NH, Fire Died of Smoke Inhalation

Joshua Harrison, his wife Ailene Moody, and two of their children, 10-year-old Joshua Harrison II and 8-year-old Jay Michael Garon died when they couldn't escape the flames

The four people killed in a fast-moving, pre-dawn fire on Monday in an apartment building in Manchester, New Hampshire, died of smoke inhalation, according to the state medical examiner's office.

State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan officially released the names of the victims after autopsies were performed on Tuesday.

Joshua Harrison, 33, his wife Ailene Moody, 39, and two of their children, 10-year-old Joshua Harrison II and 8-year-old Jay Michael Garon died when they couldn't escape the flames. The manner of their death is still pending routine laboratory analysis.

"All of them were from the same unit in the building," Degnan said, "living as a family in that unit."

The joint investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. At this point, investigators said there is no evidence to support an ongoing public safety concern.

"The events that happened here are heartbreaking. The loss of life is a tragedy," Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan said Tuesday. "We feel for the families. We pray for the families."

The Manchester Fire Department began getting 911 calls on the fire at sunrise Monday. Responders arrived to find heavy fire in the building, and removed the first two victims within one minute, firefighters said.

"The fire was progressing so quickly that we had to retreat to get supportive hose lines to advance further," District Chief Mike Gamache said. Within five to six minutes, the other two victims were brought out, he said.

One firefighter was treated for a leg injury and released from the hospital.

Volunteers for a local nonprofit that provides meals and homework help for neighborhood children said the two children who died were a "big part" of the weekly gatherings. The neighborhood, on Manchester's east side, is home to a diverse community with many low-income residents and single-parent households, volunteers said.

Volunteer Lisa Duda said it's going to be "really hard" for the other children to cope with the deaths.

"They see so much loss and pain already," she said.

A local church where the group meets served as a make-shift office for the Red Cross to help the other residents of the apartment building. Goonan said seven of the 12 apartments were occupied. The Red Cross was assisting some of the occupants. In all, 30 people were evacuated.

Rodolfo Paradas, 46, said firefighters woke him in his first floor apartment. After opening the door to the back stairway and seeing it consumed by fire, he left quickly through the front of the apartment. His apartment did not catch fire, but most of his belongings were destroyed by water damage, he said.

Alejandro Urrutia, a volunteer with the Red Cross, was working with a group of Honduran immigrants who lived in the building. Urrutia said the family has lived in Manchester for three years and "lost everything," including important documents and items of sentimental value.

"(It's) a relief that they are alive," he said. "Now they are beginning to cope with the emotional piece of it."

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Goonan said there was heavy fire coming from the rear porches when firefighters arrived.

Manchester's east side is a mix of apartment buildings, restaurants, and small businesses. By midmorning, the entire top of the building appeared charred, with windows burned out on the third floor.

The youth group the boys belonged to has started a crowdfunding page to raise money for the 30 people who made it out of the building and are now in need of a place to stay.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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