Officials call deadly North Lawrence fire 'suspicious'
Investigators say four people were killed in a suspicious fire in North Lawrence Thursday morning.
The victims have been identified as 46-year-old Marena Vanegas and three of her children, Susanna, 9, Andrea, 13 and Saul Presa, 20. The father managed to escape with two of the children through a second-story rear window. Investigators say the mother died of smoke inhalation.
According to investigators, the blaze broke out around 5:40 a.m. Thursday at a Laundromat at 234 Lawrence Ave. Police say there were two apartments above the Laundromat, one with the family of six and the other with a family of four. The family of four was able to escape the flames.One man says he saw the fire and caught a child that was thrown from one of the building's windows. Another man says he put a baby that was rescued in his car to keep warm.
The fire spread to an adjacent building, leaving 20 people displaced. The Red Cross was at the scene assisting those who no longer have a place to live. Another family of four who lived in the apartment next door was also able to get out safely.
Police say the only way out of the building besides the windows was down a stairwell, which was engulfed in flames. They are investigating what caused the fire and are calling it suspicious. Officials say they believe the fire may have started in the stairwell.