The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 15, 2021 1:00 am

Deadly house fire still unsolved

Coroner releases details on 3 fatalities

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Why a fire took the lives of a mother and her two daughters is still undetermined, according to the Allen County coroner. The fire reported at 5 a.m. Sept. 24 on Chancery Drive was contained in 19 minutes, but the living room blaze caused injuries the victims could not overcome.

First, a 2-year-old girl died, then her 11-month-old sister.

Nearly three weeks later, their mother, Janice “Jana” Ann Williams, 33, succumbed to her injuries suffered at their home at 3812 Chancery Place.

One child, a son, survived.

Thursday, the Allen County coroner ruled on the cause of their deaths. Hazel Olivia Deford, 2, died from smoke inhalation Sept. 24; Lily Eloise Deford, 11 months, from an anoxic brain injury due to smoke inhalation Sept. 25; and Williams, from smoke inhalation Oct.11. 

However, the manner of death is undetermined, the coroner's release said. 

“It's still under investigation with the Fort Wayne Fire Department fire investigation unit,” said Adam O'Connor, fire department spokesman.

The department has four fire investigators, all of whom are sworn police officers.

“They work hand in hand with the Fort Wayne Police Department. They also operate our drones,” O'Connor said. 

Williams and her three children were rushed to a hospital in critical condition after a fire broke out in their southwest Fort Wayne home around 5 a.m.

The four victims were found in the living room that was ablaze, according to a report written by Battalion Chief Jamison York.

Several Fort Wayne and Allen County law enforcement units assisted with providing care to the victims at the scene, the report said. No firefighters were injured.

Four Three Rivers Ambulance Authority units provided patient care and transport, the report said.

The fire was under control in 19 minutes, the report said. The house sustained moderate fire and smoke damage and minor water damage.

Authorities said there was a smoke detector in the home. 

Williams is survived by husband Eric Deford, parents and siblings, according to an obituary found online. She worked as a nurse for Pediatrics Associates Inc. and had received degrees from DePauw University and what was then IPFW.

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