STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — A house severely damaged in a Christmas morning fire that killed three children and two grandparents, one of whom worked as Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue, has been torn down.
The building department determined that the $1.7 million house was unsafe and ordered it razed, Stamford fire chief Antonio Conte said.
The home's owner, advertising executive Madonna Badger, and her male acquaintance escaped from the fire. But Badger's three daughters — a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins — and her parents, who were visiting for the holiday, died, police said.
Neighbors said they awoke to the sound of screaming shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday and rushed outside to help, but could do nothing as flames devoured the large, turreted home.
Police said the male acquaintance who escaped the blaze with Badger was a contractor working on the home. He was also hospitalized but his condition was not released.
Interviews with them will be finished Monday, Conte said. He had no details on the investigation.
A spokeswoman for Saks Fifth Avenue confirmed in a statement that Badger's father, Lomer Johnson, had worked as a Santa this year at its flagship store in Manhattan.
"Mr. Johnson was Saks Fifth Avenue's beloved Santa, and we are heartbroken about this terrible tragedy," spokeswoman Julia Bently said.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford, offered his condolences to Badger and her family in a statement and said her loss "defies explanation."
The fire was Stamford's deadliest since a 1987 blaze that also killed five people, Conte said.
Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, is the founder of New York City-based Badger & Winters Group. A supervisor at Stamford Hospital said she was treated and discharged by Sunday evening. Her whereabouts Monday was unknown.
Property records show Badger bought the five-bedroom, waterfront home for $1.7 million last year. The house is situated in Shippan Point, a wealthy neighborhood that juts into Long Island Sound.