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Wednesday December 6, 2000

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Apartment fire kills three children in Rhode Island

By The Associated Press

COVENTRY, R.I. - Fire swept through an apartment building and killed three young children who had been left by themselves.

A neighbor who was asked to watch the children was not in the apartment when the fire started, Police Chief Roger Laliberte said yesterday.

The blaze late Monday may have started with an electrical problem in a storage unit holding furniture, Fire Chief Stanley Mruka said.

The victims were identified as 3-year-old Kaleigh Malo and her brothers, 5-year-old Nicholas and 6-year-old Zachary.

Rescue crews carried the unconscious children out of a burning basement unit in the complex of town house apartments. The children were pronounced dead at Kent County Memorial Hospital.

The children's mother, 30-year-old Nicole Lajoie, was in a nearby building and had to be restrained by firefighters when she tried to save them, neighbor Kevin Pfeiffer said.

"I saw her come running and she was going to go in the back door. I said, 'No!' because the whole house was engulfed ..." Pfeiffer said.

Another resident, Susan McLeary, said the fire was "shooting flames out the front door 10 feet. There were flames coming out the back 10 feet."

The Department of Children, Youth and Families said it planned to investigate.



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