HFD determines deadly fire that killed mother, child was accidental

The woman’s husband, who works for HPD, was not home when the fire began.

HFD determines deadly fire that killed mother, child was accidental
Multiple sources confirm Connie Wharton and her 9-month-old baby, Sophia were killed in the fire.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu fire officials have concluded their investigation into a deadly fire that killed a mother and her child last week.

In results released Sunday, fire investigators say the fire was caused by leaked propane vapor that was ignited by an electrical water heater.

Fire officials say they found three propane tanks inside the garage of the Kahala home where the fire broke out Wednesday morning.

Honolulu Fire Department officials discovered the bodies of a 9-month-old baby and the baby’s mother after flames ripped through the Luakaha Street home around 8:10 a.m.

An HFD spokesperson says 39 firefighters across 10 separate units responded to the two-alarm blaze. Video taken from the scene shows the home completely engulfed in flames with thick black smoke being seen from miles away.

The fire didn’t burn for very long, roughly 10 minutes, firefighters say, but it was powerful enough to claim the lives of the two victims, and one of the two family dogs.

“I jumped out of the car, ran through the house and it was in back,” neighbor Rich Chun said fighting back tears. “Grabbed the hose and I couldn’t do anything and so just kind of just tried to do something, but it was too late.”

On Thursday police tape blocked the driveway as fire investigators spent the day combing through the ashes inside the burned-out home. They could be seen collecting different items and placing each of them into brown paper bags.

Officials say all the evidence that was collected today is being sent to a lab for testing.

“Those will be determined to be either something that may have contributed to the fire or something that did not contribute to the fire,” said HFD Captain Scot Seguirant. “Then you’ll also be tying in information from witnesses. People who saw things. If there’s video surveillance that’s also very helpful. So all of those things are being processed.”

City officials did not release the names of the victims, but Hawaii News Now confirmed through multiple sources that they are Connie Wharton and her infant daughter, Sophia. Hawaii News Now has also learned that the victims were the family of a lieutenant with the Honolulu Police Department.

HPD Lieutenant Nathan Wharton, the father and husband of the two decedents, was not home at the time of the fire, sources say.

Fire officials say Wharton was found dead in the home’s garage while Sophia was found in the residence’s living room.

“As far as we are concerned, we are trying to comfort the families and take care of the investigating officers too, because it looks like it’s going to be a long, drawn-out investigation right now,” said Malcolm Lutu, the president of Hawaii’s police union.

Acting police chief Jonathon Grems issued a statement saying, “We are supporting our officer during this heartbreaking tragedy. Few of us can begin to imagine the pain of his loss, and we will continue to support him in the days to come.”

Neighbors also reported hearing pops or small explosions. HFD addressed those accounts by saying, “I heard reports there is ammunitions going off while the fire was happening. It’s safe to say there was ammunitions in the home,” Capt. Scot Seguirant said.

Financially, damage to the home, its contents and a neighboring home is estimated at $720,000, but the community is reeling from the loss of life in this unfortunate incident.

“It makes everything real. We don’t know what happened here. It looks like some kind of accident,” Lutu added. “But just to lose your wife and child... You know I am sure every officer on the force or the department is thinking about that.”

2 dead in Kahala house fire

#BREAKING LIVE: Two people are dead after a fire broke out at a home in Kahala, HFD says. Updates here: https://bit.ly/2QX2qOF #HINews #HNN

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.