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Wed., Oct. 7
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Authorities: Electrical failure sparked Akwesasne fire


AKWESASNE - Preliminary reports on the fatal fire Sunday on the St. Regis Road in Akwesasne point to an electrical issue as its cause.

Jarius Chrisjohn, 46, Javin Chrisjohn, 5, and Hunter Chrisjohn, 3, of St. Regis Road, perished in their burning home late Sunday morning.

The flames from the house fire forced reservation firefighters out of the building, thwarting attempts to rescue the father and his two young sons. The home was fully engulfed by the time fire departments responded, according to a Thursday press release from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council.

“The majority of the structure was ultimately consumed by fire, and tragically three occupants who were trapped inside the home were unable to be rescued,” the preliminary investigation report compiled by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police noteds.

Autopsy reports show the three victims died from smoke inhalation.

Family members Michelle David, 27, and her son, Jericho Chrisjohn, 8, escaped the building and survived.

An Akwesasne Mohawk Police constable was first on the scene, the press release said. Several community members also initially stopped to assist before the arrival of the Hogansburg Akwesasne and Bombay volunteer fire departments.

Firefighters had the blaze under control within 45 minutes of multiple departments’ arrival, although crews from 12 separate emergency response agencies remained on the scene until 8 p.m.

Tribal police expect the final fire report to be released by the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control in coming weeks.

Funeral arrangements are being handled locally by Donaldson’s Funeral Home in Massena and the Carter Funeral Home in Syracuse. Visitation will be held at the Akwesasne Homemakers at 1126 River Road, Akwesasne, Que., until 4 p.m. Friday. A memorial service will be held in Syracuse on Saturday.

A spaghetti luncheon benefit is being held Friday at the Kateri Hall in Akwesasne.

“The magnitude of the heartache the family is experiencing has been felt throughout Akwesasne,” the press release said. “The devastation felt by the David, Chrisjohn and Bigtree families is incomprehensible. Our community members intend to help in any way possible.”

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