Fire Probe Points To Murder-Suicide At Grand Canyon

OAKDALE, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A Minnesota family is grieving for their loved ones, killed Monday morning when their RV caught fire in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Now, authorities say an investigation into the deaths points to a murder-suicide.

Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Shannan Marcak didn’t elaborate Wednesday. She says the bodies appear to be those of an adult and two children, but authorities haven’t released their identities yet.

A Minnesota school district identified the three as Jersey DeHaven, a kindergartner at Skyview School in Oakdale, sixth-grader Jace DeHaven, and their father, Anthony DeHaven. Their RV was parked just south of the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.

When firefighters arrived at the RV, sitting near the Park sign, it was completely engulfed in flames. They worked to extinguish the fire. Once it was out, they made the gruesome discovery of the bodies in the rubble.

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District spokeswoman Jennifer McNeil said a grandmother of the students informed school officials of the deaths Tuesday.

The students attended Skyview Schools in the eastern part of the Twin Cities. Jersey was a Kindergartner at the Elementary school, and her big brother, Jace, was a sixth grader at the Middle School.

The District sent a letter to parents Tuesday, informing them of the tragedy. School administrators also brought counselors in to help students and staff grieve.

“Tough situation. Our hearts go out to the families,” said assistant superintendent Troy Miller. “We’re trying to support the family. Support our students and staff. Our counselors are awesome. They’re helping them to process, answer questions, have someone to talk to, to listen to.”

This is actually the second tragedy to hit Skyiew Schools recently. Just two weeks ago, a 6-year-old student went home and found her parents and baby sitter fatally shot.

The DeHaven family in the Twin Cities is now making funeral arrangements for the children and their father. The children’s uncle recalled how much they liked to play outside, and Jace, he said, loved to play sports, too. In his words, “the kids were great.”

“I feel very sorry for the kids especially,” said Nagraj Gurumurthy, who lives next door to the family in Woodbury. “It’s a very tragic piece of news.”

He and his wife, Nithya Vaidyanathan, recalled their own kids playing with Jace and Jersey.

“They had little bikes going around, playing with other kids,” said Nagraj.

“The girl was very cute,” said Nithya. “I often told my husband, ‘she’s so cute.'”

Once the couple learned about the tragedy in the Grand Canyon, they also recalled indications that the family was taking a trip.

“We did see the RV a few weeks back. We did see a huge RV parked right outside,” recalled Nagraj.

The children’s’ uncle said he’s still waiting for investigators to tell his family how the fire started.

The National Park Service will be conducting an investigation into the incident with the assistance of the Flagstaff Fire Department and the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • justsayiin

    my heart aches for their mom; i know this family. <3 never forgotten.

    • Jessica

      So does that mean they found her? In a different story I heard she was missing!

  • Steph

    Such a tragic loss :( Always horrible when a child dies

  • Stephanie

    It was hard to see the media at the school when I picked up my daughter – I know they want information, but let these children grieve for their friends. Its hard enough for them to understand what happened and why – they dont need the media presence getting in the way and making things harder.
    The information regarding the deaths will come from Arizona anyway – not from the school. If course there will be children affected – their friend died. No child could prepare for much less understand the death of a classmate.
    Please – leave these kids alone. It is hard enough.

    • Me

      Agreed, when I was in 8th grade I witnessed my best friend get struck by a car and he died the next day. The day of the accident and the day following, our middle school was surrounded by the media. My mom picked me up from school because the media was so rude and horrid about this accident. Our principal even had to call the cops to get a few reporters off the school grounds. I was shocked to see this at 13 years old. I wanted my friend to be okay, and all they wanted was a story.

      • Stephanie

        The police were at school all day yesterday – “Wrangling” the media. Another station was there when I got there @ noon – looked like they were asked to leave the property.

    • Mary

      I wholeheartedly agree…..the media should NOT be on any campus, no matter the tragedy, with microphones in the faces of our young people who are trying to cope with something that is hard for an adult to cope with. I also think that neighbors should not be interviewed, nor any of the family who is trying to deal with this. The interviews are NOT news……they are nosey, invasions of personal space! Get with it NEWS people and stop making drama out of grief!

  • brittany

    i pray for the family and for the children who lost a dear friend. and i agree leave the kids alone they need time to greive. for they are going to take it alot harder then an adult becuase they dont understand what going on

  • xxx

    Has this incident been investigated to determine if it might have been a burglary gone bad, with a fire to cover it up??

  • red

    What was the matter with this man that he had to make up a vacation with his children only to kill them and then himself? How tragic-

    • Stephanie

      There is no concrete evidence this was a murder/suicide at this point. RV’s burn FAST. Wait until the investigation is complete and cause of death is determined before you judge. Over 3500 RV’s burn every year for various reasons.
      No one knows his state of mind – what he was thinking – anything is possible. Wait for the authorities to share their findings please.

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