Autopsies Confirm Smoke Inhalation Causes Maryland Mansion Deaths

An Annapolis couple and their four grandchildren died of smoke inhalation and burns after a Christmas tree in the grandparents’ waterfront mansion caught fire, according to autopsy reports from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, reports The Washington Post.

Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the medical examiner, said the deaths of Don and Sandra Pyle and their four grandchildren were found to be accidental.

The findings confirm information provided last week by fire officials.

A faulty electrical outlet powering tree lights in the home’s Great Room — which had 19-foot-high ceilings and was connected to the sleeping and living areas — probably ignited the Jan. 19 fire by setting the tree skirt on fire, officials said. It killed the Pyles, who owned the home, and two sets of Boone siblings: Lexi, 8, and Katie, 7; and Charlotte, 8, and Wes, 6.

The size of the tree combined with the oxygen available in the house’s cavernous rooms created an inferno, fire officials said. The fire’s size and speed may explain why no one was able to escape.

Bill McMullan, who heads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Baltimore, has said the fire “was the result of a tragic accident that occurred at the absolutely worst possible time: while the Pyles and their grandchildren were sleeping.”

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