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Man, child dead, 3 children remain in critical condition after couch fire in apartment

UPDATE: Leilani Rembert, the 1-year-old girl rescued from an apartment fire Monday night, died Thursday morning, Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Rita Reith said in a statement.

The coroner’s office said Wednesday evening that Rembert died from smoke inhalation, only to announce a short time later that she was still alive but her death was “imminent” and she was on a ventilator for possible organ donation.

Three other children rescued from the fire remained in critical condition Thursday at Riley Children’s Health, Reith says.

The 31-year-old male was identified Wednesday as Raymond Diggs, who died from thermal burns and smoke inhalation.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 31-year-old man has died after he and four children were found unconscious during a Monday night couch fire in an apartment, Indianapolis Fire Department said Wednesday.

The man’s name was not yet being released while family members are notified, said a Wednesday afternoon news release from Rita Reith, the public information officer for the fire department.

The man died Wednesday morning. The four children — ages 1, 3, 12 and 14 — on Wednesday remained in critical condition, Reith says.

The fire’s cause has yet to be determined.

Fire crews were called to reports of an apartment fire at 10:20 p.m. Monday in the 2800 block of Elwin Drive. That’s in the Briergate Apartments southeast of East 30th Street and North Post Road on the east side of Indianapolis.

Firefighters found a smoky haze in a hallway of the apartment building before extinguishing, in one first-floor apartment, a small fire on a couch. Crews later found the five people unconscious. Crews believed the five suffered cardiac arrest, and CPR was given immediately.

Reith said Monday that couches on fire can produce dangerous chemicals.

“There was literally such little fire to it. It’s now going to be under investigation,” Reith said outside the apartment fire scene. “It was so absolutely quick because the fire was almost negligible. They hit it really quick, and it was out. Investigations will determine the cause of the fire.”

She said Monday that the people may have been sleeping while the fire burned.

Reith added Monday night, “At this time, we are just hoping for the best, and hoping that these little ones and the adults that are in that apartment can survive what they dealt with tonight.”

The mother of the four children was not at home during the fire but met investigators at a hospital. The 28-year-old was the father of the 1-year-old girl and 3-year-old girl. The 14-year-old and 12-year-old are boys.

Smoke alarms were working in the common hallway of the building, Reith said Monday.

Wednesday’s release added, “Fire investigators located the base where a smoke alarm would be installed, in the apartment, but no smoke alarm was attached.  As stated earlier, apartment management told IFD investigators they had been in the unit 2 weeks prior and the unit had a working smoke alarm. It is unclear why the smoke alarm was removed.”

American Red Cross and the fire department’s victims’ assistant unit were helping with one other displaced family.