No criminal charges in Oshawa house fire that left 4 dead

No criminal charges in Oshawa house fire that left 4 dead
Police rule out criminal charges in fatal fire at Oshawa home with no smoke alarms
Durham Regional Police have ruled out laying any criminal charges in connection with a fire at an Oshawa home with no smoke alarms that left a mother, her two children and another man dead at the beginning of the year, despite the fact that charges have been laid under the Ontario Fire Code.

Flames tore through a home located on Centre Street North on Jan. 8. The blaze killed Lindsey Bonchek, her four-year-old son Jaxon and her nine-year-old daughter Maddie. Steven MacDonald was also killed in the fire after he ran back into the home to save his pregnant daughter, ex-wife and girlfriend, who all lived in the residence.

While investigating the home, Rick Derstroff of the Ontario Fire Marshals Office said he and his colleagues located brackets, mounts and wires, presumably meant to connect to smoke alarms, but no actual devices were found.

On Tuesday, charges under the Ontario Fire Code were laid against the owner of the property, its directors and two occupants of the home. Their identities have not been released by officials.

If working smoke alarms had been in place, the occupants would have had early detection and the opportunity to escape, Derstroff said in a news release.

Two days later, Durham police said after concluding an extensive investigation and consultation with multiple stakeholders regarding the matter, they will not be laying any criminal charges in connection with the deadly blaze.

We have avoided driving in the area for months as it causes so much pain. Ben is doing all right, although every day wondering where they are as his disability makes it more difficult to understand the seriousness and permanence of this.”

Investigators with the central east division criminal investigations bureau worked closely with the Coroners office, Oshawa Fire Services, the Ontario Fire Marshal and the Crown Attorneys office to review all the evidence in this case, a news release said. Police investigators looked specifically at whether enough evidence was available to support criminal charges such as arson or negligence causing death or bodily harm.

In addition, main floor residents Lori Jane McMullen and Alysha Macdonald — Steven Macdonalds daughter — are charged with failing to notify the landlord of inoperable or disconnected smoke alarms.

After reviewing what they had gathered in the case, investigators said there is insufficient evidence in this incident to support the laying of any criminal charges and no reasonable prospects for conviction.

“The bottom line is we have to rely on evidence to move forward with any charge and there wasn’t sufficient evidence to move forward with charges,” said police spokesperson Dave Selby.

No criminal charges will be laid in connection with an Oshawa house fire last January that left four people dead.

The Durham Regional Police Service said in a news release Thursday that investigators with the force's central east division criminal investigations bureau worked closely with the coroner's office, Oshawa Fire Services, the Ontario Fire Marshal and the Crown Attorney's Office "to review all evidence in the case."

On Monday, the City of Oshawa released a public service announcement stating that charges had been laid under the Ontario Fire Code in connection to the fire.

They looked at whether there was enough evidence to warrant charges such as arson, or negligence causing death or bodily harm.

"After reviewing the information and evidence available and after consultations with the Crown Attorney's Office, there is insufficient evidence in this incident to support the laying of any criminal charges and no reasonable prospects for conviction," the release said.

Emergency crews were called to a two-unit house at 116 Centre Street North on the morning of Jan. 8 for reports of an active fire and people trapped inside.

Durham Regional Police have ruled out laying any criminal charges in connection with a fire at an Oshawa home with no smoke alarms that left a mother, her two children and another man dead at the beginning of the year, despite the fact that charges have been laid under the Ontario Fire Code.

Fire crews found the home engulfed in flames and heavy smoke. A snowstorm was also moving into the area.

Two days later, Durham police said after concluding an extensive investigation and consultation with multiple stakeholders regarding the matter, they will not be laying any criminal charges in connection with the deadly blaze.

Lindsey Bonchek, 36, and her daughter Madeline, 9, died in the fire that gutted the home. Bonchek's son, Jackson, 4, was pulled from the fire but later died.

Steve Macdonald, 50, managed to escape the fire with his pregnant daughter, but ran back into the building to rescue others, according to his family, and did not come out.

After reviewing what they had gathered in the case, investigators said there is insufficient evidence in this incident to support the laying of any criminal charges and no reasonable prospects for conviction.

The Ontario Fire Marshal determined that there were no working smoke alarms in the home. Investigator Richard Derstroff said at the time that the fire originated in the kitchen, which was on the main level of the home.

On Monday, the owner of the house, two directors of a corporation and two tenants were charged with provincial offences under the Ontario Fire Code and Fire Protection and Prevention Act, according to Todd Wood, deputy fire chief for Oshawa Fire Services. 

If working smoke alarms had been in place, the occupants would have had early detection and the opportunity to escape, Derstroff said in a news release.

The specific charges were not given by the Oshawa Fire Services, nor were the names of the five people charged.

The fire department did say the two tenants who have been charged lived in the lower levels of the property at the time of the fire.

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