© Brian McInnis - TC Media
A Charlottetown firefighters carries gear back to the trucks after battling a fire in a vacant building. The blaze claimed the lives of three young people.
Fire and police inspectors in Prince Edward Island are investigating the deaths of three young people whose bodies were found inside a vacant building gutted by fire Saturday morning in Charlottetown.
Police have said they believe the three victims were young and autopsies are being performed today at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.
Their identities have still not been officially determined by the coroner’s office.
Charlottetown Deputy Police Chief Gary McGuigan said their identities would not be released soon.
“Even as we speak investigators are at the QEH and we’re hoping that they will be able to shed some light on it after the post-mortems are done and hopefully they will be able to finish the post-mortems sometime today.”
He would not say whether the delay in identifying the three victims is due to the state of the bodies discovered after being in a fire.
A fourth young man who managed to escape the burning building was airlifted to Halifax for treatment of his injuries.
Despite the lack of official confirmation of details, many rumours are circulating in the community and online about the identities of the four people young people and why they were found in the building on Mount Edward Road, which has been vacant for about five years.
Teenagers have been posting the names and photos of three teens from Montague on social media sites, with messages of grief and condolence.
McGuigan said he understands many things are being circulated online and in the community about the incident and victims, but asked for patience as investigators work to officially identify the bodies and notify next of kin.
Charlottetown police are planning to interview the sole survivor of the fire, who is still being treated at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax.
“We are in the process of making arrangement to interview him, bearing in mind his condition and his availability because of his condition,” McGuigan said.
He added it would be ‘optimistic’ to assume this would happen today, suggesting tomorrow might be more likely.
In the meantime, fire inspectors and police are continuing their work in sifting through the charred remains of the building on Mount Edward Road in an effort to determine the cause of the fire.
McGuigan has said there was no electricity in the building, so the cause of the fire is not believed to be electrical.
The fire is believed to have ignited shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday and quickly engulfed the building in tall flames and thick, dark smoke.
Neighbours describe the fire as intense, some of whom were concerned it may spread to neighbouring homes, especially when they observed firefighters struggling to reach the building. The parking lot in front of the structure had not been plowed all winter and was covered in at least three feet of snow.
Neighbours also said firefighters were trying to dig through snowdrifts when they first arrived, searching for a fire hydrant.
“All day we thought it was just a normal fire, but when they were still here (hours later), I said to my husband this is something different,” said Joyce Barbour, who lives across the road from the building.
A police officer on patrol first noticed the fire and then came upon an injured young male standing in front of the burning building.
He had been inside and had managed to escape, but he told the officer three of his friends were still inside.
Police attempted to enter the building but were forced back by intense smoke and heavy fire.