UPDATE: Two dead, four more injured in early morning fire

Two children are dead and four others were injured after a second alarm morning fire swept through a South Bend apartment.

Emergency crews were called to the 1200 block of E. Haney Ave. around 4:30 a.m. Sunday The building is a government-subsidized apartment complex that houses four units. It’s run by the South Bend Housing Authority.

Five people were inside the building, including two adults and three children. A good Samaritan ran into the structure to aid in rescue efforts. All six individuals ultimately had to be saved by emergency crews.

“I do know that the mom jumped out the back window with the five-year-old, they did get one child out." neighbor Cheryl Worsham said. "A lot of fire trucks! They were in the house immediately breaking down the windows and it was shortly after that that they brought the children out."

Robin Marshall, 28, and her daughter La'Naisha Johnson, 5, were taken to Memorial Hospital by South Bend cop cars, while the other four were transported via ambulance for injuries including smoke inhalation.

While en-route, Marshall's two other daughters, Nevaeh Johnson, 6, and MeChielle Johnson, 4, succumbed to their injuries, despite relentless efforts by paramedics to revive them.

"Our guys got here and did an incredible job making sure rescue was effective. They went to work with a tremendous amount of professionalism by getting victims out quickly," South Bend Fire Chief Stephen Cox said.

By Monday afternoon, doctors at Memorial released Marshall, her daughter La'Naisha and the unidentified good Samaritan -- believed to be a neighbor -- from the hospital. Cordell Mahone, 25, was still listed in critical condition at the Bronson Burn and Wound Center in Kalamazoo, Mich.

St. Joseph County Coroner Michael O'Connell performed autopsies on the Johnson sisters Monday. A high level of soot and smoke inhalation were ruled as their causes of death.

While the cause of the fire is still under review, NewsCenter 16 confirmed the blaze sparked in the first floor living room. It could take two months to complete the investigation.

The apartment complex did have working smoke detectors on both levels. Damage is estimated at $40,000.

This marks South Bend's first fatal fire since Sept. 7, 2011. Ironically enough, the city held a press conference at Station 1 last month to recognize the fact it was fatality free in 2012.

"If you combine all jurisdictions in the United States, someone dies in a house fire about every 15 minutes. So it's pretty significant for us not to have any fatalities over the course of time like that. Our hope is that will continue on with that few fatalities," Chief Cox concluded.


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