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Still no cause found in Academy Crossing fire


Tim Pratt



More than three weeks after the fatal Academy Crossing Apartments fire, investigators still have not determined an official cause of the blaze, Starkville Fire Department Chief Rodger Mann said Tuesday.  


State and local investigators are waiting on private insurance company electrical engineers representing Academy Crossing to finish their analysis of the scene before making a determination of what caused the Dec. 28 blaze that killed nine people, Mann said.  


"I don''t know where it''s at on their part," Mann said of the engineers. "You assume that you hand something to someone, well, you just assume they go to working on it then, but that''s not always the case. I have no idea how long it''s going to be. That''s what everybody is waiting on. We can''t really finish anything until we know the results." 


It is "very common" for insurance companies to take lengthy periods of time to finish an investigation into a fatal fire, Mann said.  


During the early morning hours of Dec. 28, fire broke out in Apartment E7 in Academy Crossing Apartments, located on South Louisville Street, near its intersection with Academy Road.  


The nine victims were: India Williams, 25, and her three children, Jacorian Vasser, 6, Richard Vasser Jr., 5, and Kamarion Williams, 2; Castella Maria Bell, 18, and her three children, Ta''Nayia Bell, 4, Jayvion Bell, 3, and Sumaya Bell, 6 months; and Lakesha Gillespie, 20. 


Six of the victims'' bodies were found in a bedroom in the back of the apartment, two were in a bathroom and one was in the kitchen. The apartment had no back door and investigators believe the fire began in the living room, near where the front door was located. 


Since autopsies performed on India Williams, Castella Bell and Gillespie revealed the three died of smoke inhalation, Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt didn''t order autopsies on the six children. 


The Starkville Fire Department is holding a fire-safety class Jan. 25 at 6 p.m in Sudduth Elementary School, which is open to the public.




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