Family 'devastated,' community in shock after losing mother and son in North Vancouver fire

Narges Casnajad and her son, Sepehr, were killed when their apartment went up in flames on Monday.

Narges Casnajad and her son, Sepehr, were killed when their apartment went up in flames on Monday

Officials have not yet identified the victims but family members confirmed that Narges Casnajad and her son, Sepehr, were killed in the fire. (Family photo)

Dates, walnuts and fresh fruit were arranged on the family's dark wooden table in a North Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon.

The kettle had been boiled for chai. A box of tissues was tucked next to a vase of white flowers. 

It's an Iranian tradition to lay food out when someone in the family dies so there's something to offer as people come by to pay their respects.

On Tuesday, family mourned Narges Casnajad and her son, Sepehr — killed when their apartment went up in flames the previous day.

Their deaths have left the community in shock, without a woman described as the pillar of her family and for a boy who "loved his mom."

Narges Casnajad, in green, celebrated a love one's birthday with family just weeks before the fire. (Submitted)

'They are devastated'

More than 150 people were forced out of their homes when the fire ripped through the Mountain Village Garden Apartments in Lynn Valley in the middle of the night.

Casnajad and Sepehr, who was eight, couldn't escape their second-storey unit.

The husband and elder son, Soheil, were able to jump to safety.

Maryam Zaker, a family member, said the two are "devastated" by the loss. 

"It's very difficult," she said, sitting in the family living room on Tuesday. "They can't calm down."

Maryam Zaker speaking from a family member's home in North Vancouver on Tuesday. She said she and Narges Casnajad were instant friends when they met years ago. (CBC)

Zaker said she and Casnajad clicked instantly when they met as friends four years ago. Zaker married into the family years later.

"Even though she wasn't related in the beginning, the friendship started right away," Zaker said.

She said Casnajad was one of the first women in her family to immigrate from Iran to Canada. She guided all five of her sisters when they came, too. 

Narges Casnajad, pictured at a birthday party weeks before she died. Her family described her as their rock, a leader who supported the entire family. (Family photo)

"She put her life behind her for her family," Zaker said.

"She remembered everything. One of her sisters showed me a text message, reminding her to take her niece to an appointment."

Zaker said Sepehr was "a great boy" who loved to paint and loved his mom.

"He was dependent on her," she said.

Supports offered

Soheil was released from hospital the day of the fire. His father remains in hospital with severe burns.

Zaker said the men will need support — emotional and financial — as they move forward.

The North Vancouver School District said it's working with the North Shore Emergency Management Office to help families directly affected by the fire. Counsellors are available for staff and students.

The school district wouldn't confirm information about the deaths, but several parents at École Ross Road Elementary school said Sepehr attended school there.

Many parents held each other and cried as they left the school grounds Tuesday morning.

Flowers are placed next to the police tape marking the scene of of the fire that destroyed a North Vancouver apartment building on June 11, 2018. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Investigation continues

Meanwhile, crews worked to put out leftover embers and sift through the debris.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. Officials are looking into whether the building had working smoke alarms and sprinklers.​

Once the coroner's investigation is complete, the family hopes they'll be able to see Casnajad and Sepehr's bodies. Seeing them, going to a grave site and holding a funeral as soon as possible are all part of the tradition. 

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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