Two children who were airlifted to St. John's after a fire ripped through an apartment in a central Labrador town have died, police said Monday.
RCMP said the two children passed away Sunday night from injuries sustained in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay fire, which was ruled an accident by investigators on Monday.
Smoking material, possibly a cigarette, ignited the blaze, police said in a news release. Police said earlier that alcohol may have been a factor.
The two children who died were a five-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy.
The deaths bring to five the number of fatalities in the fire, which has shocked the close-knit town.
Those who died in the fire were Paulette Jacque, 33, her daughter Charlotte Robinson, 5, Kathleen Jararuse, 17, from Makkovik, where many people knew her as Kathleen Mitchell, but who police say was a resident of the apartment, Matthew Gear Allen, 13, and a female, 24, whose name is being withheld at the request of family.
At Peacock Primary School, where Charlotte was enrolled, staff released butterflies on Monday, as a way of helping young children cope.
"Our plan was to keep the day going as [normally] as we possibly could, considering the horrible tragedy that took place," said principal Doug Abbass.
"With children being as young as they are … really, their understanding and appreciation for what took place probably isn't as high a level as some of the older children might be in the other schools."
Fire investigators arrived on the scene Sunday and were there again Monday.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Leo Abbass said people in the community will have trouble dealing with the fire, which ripped through an apartment where nine people — including five children — had been sleeping.
"I use the word devastating," Abbass said Sunday.
"I know that there's a couple of school-aged children involved here, and I've talked to some teachers and some parents. This is something that will affect us as adults, but it will also have a big effect on a number of young people in this community."
Daughter saved after missing sleepover
Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident Cynthia Collins said she often let her daughter sleep over at the house, just down the street. She said on Saturday night, her daughter really wanted to stay over.
"My daughter never ended up sleeping there — thank God for that, because she could have been in this fire today.… She ended up sleeping at her uncle's last night," Collins told CBC News on Sunday.
The damage from the fire is clearly visible on the unit. The white siding is melted and twisted, and the windows are broken.
Counsellors were at local schools in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and school staff in Makkovik had prepared to help children deal with the loss.