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Fire kills 3 in Conn.; others hurt jumping

Associated Press / March 10, 2011

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NEW HAVEN — An overnight fire that started in a stairwell tore through a multifamily home, killing three relatives and injuring eight other people, including some who jumped from windows to escape, officials said yesterday.

Mayor John DeStefano said the deaths were being investigated as a triple homicide and that state arson specialists had joined the investigation.

Police identified the victims as a 42-year-old woman, her 8-year-old son, and her 18-year-old niece. They were found in a third-floor bedroom in the multifamily home, and officials said preliminary reviews showed they died of smoke inhalation.

Some of the injured were rescued as flames cornered them on a second-floor porch.

The fire was reported just before 2 a.m. in the city’s Fair Haven section, fire Chief Michael Grant said. It was believed to have started in a second-floor stairwell and spread to the third floor, where firefighters found the bodies of Wanda Roberson, her son Quayshawn, and her niece Jaquitta. Quayshawn was in second grade and Jaquitta was a high school senior.

Neighbors said Quayshawn’s two older brothers were injured.

City officials said they did not have anyone in custody but were investigating the fire as a criminal act. They were looking for information about a minivan seen near the home Tuesday night.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene of people trying to rescue residents from the burning building and comforting those who had escaped. Amateur video showed people passing young children down from windows.

“I was sleeping and woke up to the sound of screaming, people screaming, ‘My baby, my baby,’ and I saw people lowering children out of the second-floor balcony,’’ Jadine Small told the Hartford Courant.

The American Red Cross was working with displaced people.