By Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press
The president of Senegal offered his condolences on Thursday after five people who immigrated to Colorado from the West African country were killed in a suburban Denver house fire that authorities say they suspect was intentionally set.
President Macky Sall tweeted in French that he was also monitoring the investigation closely, and he wished the surviving victims a speedy recovery. Three people escaped Wednesday morning’s fire by jumping from the home’s second floor and are recovering from non-life-threatening injuries.
Investigators say a toddler, an older child and three adults were killed in the fire in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood, a relatively new development of tightly packed homes near Denver International Airport.
Police, fire officials and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the fire because there are indications that it may have been arson, said Joe Montoya, division chief of investigations for Denver police. Montoya would not elaborate Wednesday on the evidence because he said he did not want to compromise the investigation.
The Denver coroner’s office has not released the names or ages of the victims, who immigrated from Senegal in recent years.
Senegal Consul General Elhadji Ndao flew to Denver on Thursday at the request of his country’s leaders and said he is looking forward to the investigation.
“We trust and have confidence in the legal system in this country and this city, and we have confidence that the investigation will take its course and what is proper in terms of diligence will be done,” he said, standing in front of the remnants of the charred home.
Ndao, who was joined by members of the Senegalese community who gathered to mourn the victims, added, “It’s unfortunate that a whole family was gone in this tragic event.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he has met with the family of the victims and vowed to bring whoever may be responsible to justice.
“You better best believe that this is something that none of us in this city or this state or in this nation should stand for,” he said.
Denver Fire Department Capt. Greg Pixley said the victims’ bodies were discovered after firefighters extinguished the fire, which was first reported by a police officer at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday.
Neighbor Maria Mendoza said she was awakened by noise and someone screaming, “Get the baby out! Get the baby out!” about that time. She ran to a window and saw flames and plumes of smoke rising from the home just down the street.
“I awoke my husband, and he ran outside to see if he could help. But there was nothing he could do. The fire was too big,” Mendoza said.
A police officer trying to rescue people was pushed back by the fire’s heat. It appears that those who died were all on the first floor.