Coroner: Family 'died from smoke and soot inhalation'

Cary Ashby • Updated Jan 30, 2018 at 12:51 PM

Authorities said there were no working smoke detectors in the Norwalk house that was gutted from a fire Friday that killed three family members. The cause remains under investigation.

The victims were 65-year-old Robert Griggs Jr., his 57-year-old wife Rebecca and their 27-year-old son James.

“I still have the labs pending, but they would have died from smoke and soot inhalation,” Huron County Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Harwood said. “They would have succumbed quickly in a fire like that.”

Two dogs also died in the fire. Harwood said there was a smaller pet and “an older therapy dog.”

Dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call from a neighbor at 3:19 a.m. Friday about the fire at 8 Park Ridge Court. The split-level home is off Valley Park Drive.

“There were no functioning smoke detectors at the house to our knowledge,” Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson said.

When asked Monday about a possible cause, the chief referred further questions to the state fire marshal’s office. 

“There is nothing suspicious about it,” Soisson said.

Four state fire marshal’s investigators processed the scene Friday. One had a Labrador dog, which is an accelerant-detection canine.

Kelly Stincer, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal’s office, said Monday that investigators haven’t determined a cause, but last week they were undecided between smoking and an electrical issue.

The victims’ bodies were sent to Lucas County for autopsies. Stincer said the report won’t be closed until the autopsies are completed.

“That takes, at minimum, at least two months. Toxicology is usually what takes two months,” she added.

Harwood couldn’t recall a fire-related triple fatality in his 22 years as the county coroner.

“I haven’t had one since ‘96,” he said.

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