Members of the Nanaimo RCMP Serious Crimes unit, along with investigators from Nanaimo Fire Rescue and the B.C. Coroners Service, continued to comb through the aftermath of a fire Wednesday where three bodies were found Tuesday afternoon.
The three victims have been identified by friends and family as Amberlee Scarr, Jason Stephenson, and their seven-year-old daughter Piper.
Emergency services responded to the structure fire at 754 Nicol St. in south Nanaimo at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, right around the same time police were responding to a report of a disturbance at the residence, said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Jon Stuart at a press conference Wednesday morning that answered some questions, but left many more unanswered.
When firefighters arrived they found the three victims, including the young child and her two parents, both 45, in the home. Stuart said he did not know if all three victims were dead at the scene. The cause of the fire is so far unknown.
“At this point we can’t determine what the cause was. We have nothing to speculate on at this point … because we do not have an origin as suspicious,” Stuart said. “We’re at this point investigating, with discussions with neighbours, with the fire department, with coroners to try to fill in the pieces which is quite a big puzzle.”
Stuart said all fires of unknown origin are treated as suspicious.
The investigation is in its early stages and investigators are trying to ascertain why, among other things, the girl was home on a school day.
Early reports of an altercation or disturbance at the house turned out to be the activities of a passerby who discovered the fire.
“What we received was a call of someone at the residence breaking glass and yelling,” Stuart said. “It turns out that was a passerby that had spotted the fire that was there to try to raise the alarm, which they did do, so there was no altercation that we have any knowledge of prior to the fire.”
Stuart said it would possibly be several days before police are able to determine the cause of the deaths or what started the fire and weeks or even months to ascertain all the answers to the questions currently surround the incident.
While police have not identified any of the victims, Dale Burgos, Nanaimo school district spokesman, confirmed at a press conference Wednesday that the girl was a Grade 2 student who attended a school in Nanaimo.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Burgos said. “It’s always sad when you lose a family and a student in the district or, rather, anywhere.”
The school district is providing grief counselling to the students and staff of the school the girl attended. The school district is not releasing the name of the school.
“I’ve been told that the teachers are very cognizant of the students in the students in the classroom. They want to make sure that the students are doing OK,” Burgos said. “We, as a district, are sending a letter home to the families to ensure that they know what’s going on, that counsellors are available for their children and the staff and students that may need it. Grade 2s are a very young age, so a lot of them won’t understand what’s going on, but again those conversations have to be had in the classroom just to ensure that all the students are OK.”
Burgos said he did not know the victim and had never met her personally.
Stuart said with firefighters looking into the cause of the fire and coroners performing autopsies, there are multiple investigations ongoing.
“An investigation like this does take time because we take it slow and we’ve got to do it as methodically as possible,” he said.
RCMP Victim Services are working with the victims’ friends and family.