Woman dead following fire that trapped people inside burning home in Thompson, Man.

By | January 26, 2020

A house fire that forced three people to flee from a burning building early Friday morning has left a woman dead, a family homeless and a northern Manitoba community in shock

At 6:15 a.m. on Friday, Thompson RCMP and Thompson Fire and Emergency Services responded to reports of people trapped inside a burning building on Centennial Drive East in Thompson, Man., police said in a news release issued on Sunday.

The first officer on scene noted flames were coming from the house and smoke was billowing out of the windows, an RCMP spokesperson said in an email.

Officers helped neighbours pull an 89-year-old woman out of the home. She indicated others could be inside.

A 61-year-old man escaped by jumping out of a window, according to police.

A 21-year-old man who fled through the flames was taken to hospital with very serious injuries and remains in critical condition.

A 20-year-old woman was unaccounted for following the fire.

It wasn’t safe for police and fire crews to enter the building on Friday, but on Saturday, the body of a female was located inside the home.

An autopsy is scheduled to confirm her identity.

Fire leaves family homeless

Catherine Swain-Vinci was devastated when her son called her to say their house had burst into flames and most of the occupants had been rescued or escaped, but her daughter was missing.

“It was so intense, the smoke, the heat,” she said witnesses told her. Her husband, who also lived there, had to bust a window and jump out to escape.

The 61-year-old man then helped neighbours rescue his 89-year-old mother from the fiery house, Swain-Vinci said.

“But we didn’t know where Tyra was,” said Swain-Vinci, who confirmed to CBC News the identity of Tyra Keeper, the 20-year-old woman recovered from inside the home the day after the fire.

An early Friday morning house fire that forced occupants to flee from a burning building has left a woman dead, Thompson RCMP said on Sunday. Catherine Swain-Vinci has identified Tyra Keeper, her daughter, as the victim. (David Bell/CBC)

Swain-Vinci was in the community of Split Lake, Man., for work when the fire broke out. She doesn’t know what, how or why it happened.

“It was a strange fire,” she said. “The whole floor collapsed. This fire was not a normal house fire. And you can smell it.”

She said residents have alerted her to bizarre fumes in the air.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner and Thompson RCMP are continuing to investigate the house fire.

Family mourning for Tyra Keeper

Keeper, who was a member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Split Lake, had spent most of her life in Thompson, Swain-Vinci said.

Both communities of Thompson and the First Nation are shaken by the tragedy.

“It’s a big impact,” said Swain-Vinci, who raised Keeper since she was born. “I didn’t realize how much of an impact Tyra had in her life with people because of the loving, kind, smiley, energetic young lady that she was.”

Swain-Vinci said the home and all of the family’s belongings there are ruined, including photos of her late husband. Her family, including Swain-Vinci and her husband, his mother, her son and her late daughter’s boyfriend have no place to live.

“It’s all gone. They have to start from scratch,” she said.

Swain-Vinci said the boyfriend was seriously injured by the deadly blaze. She visited him and her family members at the hospital, she said. Her husband and mother-in-law are recovering okay, she said.

Investigation ongoing

Four RCMP officers were treated for smoke inhalation that occurred during rescue efforts.

“The RCMP would like to acknowledge the brave and selfless community members who rushed towards the burning home within the first few minutes to aid those in danger,” reads the police release.

No details were available about the cause of the fire.

Thompson’s fire chief declined to comment while an investigation was underway.