West Richland woman's manner of death unknown

The investigation into the death of a young West Richland mother has been completed, but the manner of her death is not known, officials said.

Benton County Coroner John Hansens issued the final death certificate Wednesday for Sandy St. George, and ruled the 26-year-old died from carbon monoxide intoxication as a result of smoke inhalation.

The manner of death, however, is undetermined.

Hansens said the manner of death can't be determined because the cause of the fire that resulted in St. George's death is undetermined.

He also explained that it has been a "lengthy process" to get to his final ruling because he was waiting on test results. Tissue samples were sent to the state crime lab, but he also sent some to specific fire-related labs for additional testing.

The early morning blaze March 18 destroyed St. George's home at 701 S. 45th Ave., in West Richland. It has been under investigation by West Richland police, local fire officials and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"This is a very exhaustive investigation for all agencies," Hansens said.

West Richland Police Chief Brian McElroy said investigators have identified the laundry room as the general area where the fire started, but an exact point of origin is not known.

There still is some evidence at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab being processed and results of that examination "may provide additional information helpful in determining the cause of the fire," he said.

St. George's husband, Thomas, was able to escape the blaze. The couple's three young children were not home at the time.

Officials are continuing to investigate any leads provided in the case. Anyone with information about the fire should call West Richland at 967-3425.

Kennewick family with 7 kids displaced by blaze in garage

Firefighters battled a garage fire Wednesday afternoon in Kennewick that displaced a family with seven children.

The fire started about 3:45 p.m. in the home's attached garage at 1809 S. Rainier St.

Kenneth and Melisa Stenersen and their seven children live in the home. The Stenersens smelled the smoke and called for help.

They said they wouldn't be staying in the home Wednesday night but did have a place to stay. No one was injured.

Kennewick fire Deputy Chief Marvin Leonard said the fire was mostly in the garage, which was used for storing bikes and tools, and in the attic.

Firefighters from the Kennewick and Richland fire department and Benton fire districts 1 and 4 responded.

Mother, young child escape fire in Finley mobile home

A mother and young child escaped injury Wednesday morning when a fire broke out in their mobile home in Finley.

The fire started at 9:18 a.m. at the home in Kelleys Estates and was quickly extinguished by crews from Benton Fire District 1, with help from Kennewick Fire Department, said Deputy Chief Mike Harris.

The 26-year-old homeowner said she was cooking and saw smoke coming from behind the refrigerator or stove.

"I ended up turning off the stove ... and started hearing popping sounds coming from behind the refrigerator," Jessica Espinoza said.

She quickly left the house with her 1 1/2-year-old son and called 911. Her 5-year-old daughter was not home at the time.

The kitchen and front living area were heavily damaged and most her furniture was destroyed. Espinoza owns the home but has no insurance. She said she will likely stay with her mother, who lives just down the street.

Harris said the 15 firefighters on scene were able to get the fire contained fast, and the only challenge they had is a known challenge in rural Benton County -- there are no water hydrants in the mobile home park.

"We always have to bring our own water," he said.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com