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Electrical Short Probable Cause Of Four Children Killed In Christmas Tree Fire In Annapolis Mansion

by Jake Dameron - The Oregon Herald Thursday January 29, 2015    8:48 AM

ANNAPOLIS - Even those who have all the money in the world are susceptible to tragedy and death, though one may spend loyd of money to make your loved ones safe, if you ignore or forget simple safety precautions, you and those loved ones can die, no matter how much you may believe you are above it all.

Investigators say a large Christmas was the cause of a fire that killed four children and their grandparents not long after the family celebrated Christmas at their $6 million Annapolis mansion.

Investigators say the fire began in a room with a 19-foot-high ceiling connected to the sleeping and living areas. The most likely cause was a faulty electrical outlet connected to tree lights in the home's Great Room. The January 19th fire probably set the tree skirt on fire, killing the grandparents, Don and Sandra Pyle, and their grandchildren, Lexi, 8, and Katie, 7; and Charlotte, 8, and Wes, 6.

"While the explanation that has been shared with us today does not bring solace," the family said in a statement Wednesday night, "it does start us down the long road to acceptance."

Fire officials said the dry 15-foot-high Fraser fir was cut a couple months earlier and most likely helped fuel the fire that spread through the 16,000-square-foot house. The tree was lit 24 hours a day.

Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Allan Graves said that all six died of smoke inhalation and burns.

Investigators are using specialty software that provides "forensic mapping," which allows them to reconstruct a building's layout in such detail that they could determine where drapes might have hung or a couch might have been placed, according to Special Agent Dave Cheplak, a spokesman for the Baltimore office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

He and Capt. Russell Davies Jr., a spokesman for the county's fire department, said they had not determined the cause of the fire.

"Until we make a determination one way or another, it's going to stay a criminal investigation," Davies said.

Cheplak agreed of the need to carefully sift through the evidence. "Any time you have a family of six people killed in a home, it's certainly not commonplace," he said. "Nobody is taking it as routine."

Before it was reduced to rubble, the mansion symbolized the Pyles' soaring success and served as the center of their family's universe.

The grandparents met in 1981 at Rixon and turned their expansive basement into a playroom for sleepovers and took the children on trips to Disney World and Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor waterpark.

They helped pay for the children to attend the private Severn School, where tuition for elementary students runs nearly $18,000 a year. The family was such a fixture on campus that one parking space is marked "Reserved for Pyle family."

The Pyles also bought Randy and Clint homes near their estate.

"That's because of the grandbabies," said Dennis Stvan's wife, Carol. "Those kids meant everything to them."

Photo: Owners Don and Sandra Pyle and four of their grandchildren died in the blaze. The Boone grandchildren feared killed by an Annapolis fire, from top left: Wes, 6, and Charlotte, 8, the children of Clint Boone and his ex-wife, Eve Morrison; and Lexi , 8, and Katie, 7, children of Randy and Stacey Boone. Family photos
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