SEATTLE – Authorities say they are investigating whether a fire that swept through a Redmond apartment building early Saturday, killing a 32-year-old man and four young boys, was caused by ashes left smoldering in the bathroom.
David Thompson and his wife, Lilly Reasor, 31, had spent part of Friday night celebrating the New Year by smoking marijuana in the bathroom of their groundlevel home in the Sammamish Ridge Apartments, according to a law-enforcement source close to the investigation. Reasor was also smoking cigarettes in the bathroom and flicking ashes into a wastebasket, the source said.
Along with a neighbor who was visiting Friday night, the couple drank beer while the children played in the living room. The neighbor, Belinda Phelps, who has given an account of the evening to lawenforcement officials, said the couple returned to the bathroom to smoke several times.
When the adults finished smoking marijuana, Thompson stashed the pipe and ashes in a travel bag and hung it on a hook on the back of the bathroom door, Phelps said. The bathroom fan was left on , authorities said.
But around 2:30 a.m., well after the party was over, fire erupted, killing Thompson and the children. Reasor ran from the apartment screaming, though it was unclear how she managed to escape.
Phelps said the oldest boy attended Rose Hill Junior High School, and that the other children ranged in age from 2 to 6 .
A friend of Thompson, Terron Neville of Colorado Springs, Colo., said the mother of at least one of the four boys is Thompson’s ex-wife in Colorado Springs, and that Thompson has two other children living in Colorado from the previous marriage.
The former wife, Chandra Kroeckel, identified the oldest boy killed as her son, 12-yearold Tristan Thompson. “A lot of wonderful lives were taken out of this world,” she said, sobbing. “My heart just goes out to my son’s stepmother because she lost her husband and also her children.”
Kroeckel identified the other children as David, 6, Leviticus, 4, and Wyatt, who recently turned 2.
The fire appears to be accidental. Investigators are looking at either of two causes – smoldering marijuana ashes in the travel bag or cigarette ashes flicked into a bathroom wastepaper basket.
Phelps said she had told Reasor to stop flicking her ashes into the trash can, which was filled with tissue and other paper, but that Reasor had told her that bath tissue was not flammable.
Phelps returned to her apartment around 1 a.m., later awakening to Reasor’s frantic cries.
Reasor suffered minor injures and was in stable condition at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland.
On Sunday morning, investigators from Redmond police and fire departments, the State Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives returned to the complex to continue searching for clues.
But the building was still off-limits to residents, said Redmond police Officer Greg Twentey.
On Sunday night, Kroeckel said Thompson had spoken on the phone on New Year’s Eve with their 10-year-old daughter and had mentioned to the girl that he had smelled gas in the apartment and was going to check into it.
But Twentey said that accelerant-sniffing dogs and crews of investigators have been scouring the scene for two days and he hasn’t heard anything about a possible gas leak.