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.
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