Autopsies: Stamford Fire Victims Died Of Smoke Inhalation

STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — More disturbing details were released Wednesday about the Christmas day fire that killed three young girls and their grandparents in Stamford.

The medical examiner’s office released an autopsy report on the victims, whose deaths were ruled accidental.  The ME’s office said 10-year-old Lily Badger, her 7-year-old twin sisters Grace and Sarah and their grandmother Pauline Johnson all died of smoke inhalation.

The children’s grandfather, Lomer Johnson, who worked as a Santa Claus, also suffered blunt trauma to the neck and head.

Lomer had stepped out onto the roof of the home and fell through the rafters to the ground below. Investigators say he spent his last moments trying desperately to save his grandchildren.

“Looks like she was placed on the books so he could get out the window and then reach in and grab her but when he went out the window, that’s when he succumbed and she died just inside the window,” Chief Antonio Conte said.

Meanwhile, crews were back on the scene earlier in the day trying to salvage anything of value from where the Victorian home once stood.   Stamford’s top building official says renovation work being done on the home included wiring for an extensive smoke and carbon monoxide detection system.

“We don’t know if the devices were installed and activated. We weren’t there to make any final inspections,” Robert DeMarco said.

The only survivors of the deadly blaze were the girls’ mother Madonna Badger, an advertising executive, and  Michael Borcina, a friend and contractor working on the house.

Borcina’s family told CBS 2, “We really don’t know anything about what happened. It’s all just very sad.”

Borcina’s sister-in-law said Michael is “doing OK, as best as he can.”

Badger’s brother told CBS 2, “The Badger family and the Johnson family send out heartfelt thanks to everyone who is grieving for us.”

There are many who are in mourning, including fire fighters and police officers who tried so hard to save the family.

“I had to recall 70 firefighters , for debriefing, and most of them broke down,” Conte said.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to that family,” Deputy Fire Chief Bill Smith said. “Believe me, we are all hurting from this.”

Mental health experts also said the heartbroken mother has an incredibly long road ahead of healing.

“When you lose a child, that’s the worst thing that can possibly happen. When you lose three children and two parents, it’s inconceivable,” said Dr. Harris Stratyner.

Stratyner told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu that Badger will need intense professional and community support to make it through.

“The survivor guilt is going to be tremendous and people need to keep an eye on her and realize she may need medication, long-term counseling if she’s not in therapy already and just family around her,” he said.

Investigators have ruled the fire an accident and say it started when Borcina removed embers that were still smoldering from the fireplace, put them in a bag and left them outside leaning against the house.

Hundreds of people have turned to social media to express their condolences to the family, creating support pages for Madonna Badger on sites such as Facebook.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

  • Jo Gallop

    The contractor was negligent , he is responsible for this fire, nobody should have been sleeping in area where renovations were going on, temporary smoke detectors should have been in place, especially where children are sleeping , nobody puts ashes in a bag, metal container w/ preferably a lid set at least 20 feet from dwelling, He wasn’t even licensed to work in Conn. I guess this is what rich people do to save $$ rest in Peace little ones and the beautiful grand parents..

  • Jane

    The contractor should be charged criminally.

  • SoTired

    My prayers are with the family and friends of the family. Such a tragedy..

  • Franklin

    I’m sorry folks but what recourse does anybody have against this idiot Borcina? Why was all the evidence removed asap beore a case of involuntary negligence could be brought about?
    This idiot is telling the NY Post that he’s doing ok and spiritually HE will get through it. Why was a contractor sleeping in a house that was not approved by the City of Stamford? Why does any normal human being take burning embers out of a fireplace and put it in a mudroom so that it will burn the house down? I just find this pretty bizarre.

  • Lance Sniatkowski


    Have not talked to you in 15 years but this is not the way I wanted to talk to you. My heart goes out to you and the family! You know I am here for you!


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