Cause of fatal fire remains under investigation

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Photo by EJ Conzola II. A memorial to 10-year-old Airyonna Jabot has been put up outside the Maple Street residence in Whitehall where she died last Wednesday in an early-morning fire. Similar markers have cropped up in several locations throughout the village. The investigation into the blaze continued Thursday.
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By EJ Conzola II

The investigation into the cause of the Wednesday fire that claimed the life of a 10-year-old Whitehall girl continued at press time as investigators combed through the 5 Maple St. residence in which she died.

Memorials featuring toys, flowers and other memorabilia have been created at several locations throughout the village in the girl’s honor.

Airyonna Jabot was found in her second-floor apartment last Wednesday after rescue efforts failed to reach her in time, according to a statement from the Whitehall Village Police Department, which is leading the investigation.

The fire was reported around 4:31 a.m. May 8 and multiple fire departments, emergency medical responders and law enforcement personnel were dispatched to the scene, the statement said.

“Once on scene, it was determined that a 10-year-old was still in the home,” the statement said. “Extensive rescue efforts were made, but sadly the child was located deceased.”

None of the other residents of the three-unit building were injured, according to the statement, but one of the downstairs residents, Chris Chirasello, was seen walking around with an ice pack on his hand; Chirasello said he was burned trying to rescue Jabot.

No other details about the fire, including its cause, have been made public.

The owner of the building, David Loomis of Schuylerville, said he saw smoke coming from the west side of the second floor when he arrived at the scene a few hours after the fire was first reported. Loomis, who said Thursday afternoon that he had not yet been allowed into the building, said the kitchen and living room area of the apartment was in that location.

Loomis also said the building had been inspected for safety, including smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, less than three months before the fire. He also noted that the building had recently undergone renovations, including a new roof and some exterior wood repair and painting.

Loomis owns several other multi-family rental properties throughout the village through a limited liability corporation, according to Washington County tax records.

Investigators from the village police, Washington County Sheriff’s office and the New York State Police were at the scene Thursday combing through the upstairs apartment. Whitehall Police Chief David Buxton said he expected investigators to return to the scene Friday but could not say when he expected the investigation to be completed.

A memorial to Jabot consisting of flowers and stuffed toys was set up just outside the police tape surrounding the burned house Thursday. Similar memorials to the Whitehall Elementary School student have been erected at other locations in the village as well.