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'Nothing anyone could do': 6 dead in Newark house fire are identified

and Contact Reporter
Four adults and two children die in Newark blaze

An early-morning fire killed six people after it ripped through a home in Newark, N.J., on Sunday, officials said.

Essex County Acting Prosecutor Carolyn Murray on Sunday evening identified the dead as Salome Stewart, and her husband, Reginald Stewart, both 58; and her sister, Natasha Kinsale, 47. All three resided in the house. Also killed were visiting family members Zion Forbes, 11, of East Orange, N.J., and Noreen Johnson, 43, and her son, Stephon Sydney, 15, both from Crawford, Ga.

The cause of their deaths are pending autopsies by the regional medical examiner, Murray said.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing and is being  conducted by the Essex County prosecutor's Major Crimes Task Force,   including personnel from the Newark Fire Department.

Firefighters were called to a neighborhood about two miles west of downtown Newark shortly before 4 a.m., Anthony F. Ambrose, chief of investigators for the Essex County prosecutor's office, told The Times.

What they found, Ambrose said, was a two-story home "engulfed" in flames.

Neighbors told the Newark Star-Ledger that firefighters could not save the occupants inside, with one unidentified neighbor across the street telling the paper: "There was literally nothing anyone could do. It was horrible, to stand here and watch it burn, and you can't do nothing."

All six bodies were found inside the home, Ambrose said. Each was found in a bedroom, indicating they likely slept through the fire, said one of the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with the media.

The building suffered severe fire damage and will likely have to be demolished, Ambrose said. 

A spokesman for the Newark Fire Department did not immediately answer calls seeking comment.

News of the deadly blaze spread grief among city leaders. Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka issued this statement:

"The fire was horrific and I mourn the loss of the six victims. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives. I am proud of the courage of our brave firefighters who rushed into the house and risked their lives to battle the intense flames in an ultimately impossible attempt to save six people."

Anthony Tarantino, president of the Newark Fire Officers Union, was no different in his reaction. "It's just sad," he said, "that it has to happen on a day like Father's Day."

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times


4:04 p.m.: This post has been updated with the identities of the six people killed in the fire. Also added is the statement issued by Mayor-elect Ras Baraka.