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April 11 Unified Command Update:
Bellingham Fire and Police investigators announced that they will be partnering with Fire investigators from private insurance companies to further investigate and attempt to determine the cause and origin of the Squalicum Harbor boathouse fire.
Jim Langei, 43, and his wife Sterling Taylor, 33 lived aboard their 42-foot boat that was among several other that sank following a fire at a boathouse on March 30 at about 5:30 a.m. Both victims were located by divers on April 5. Dr. Gary Goldfogel, Whatcom County Medical Examiner, concluded that both victims died as a result of the fire. The official cause of death has been certified as asphyxia by inhalation of products of combustion (smoke inhalation), and the manner of death was accidental.
The announcement to partner with private insurance Investigators came following a consultation with Fire Investigators from the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco Firearm) on Tuesday afternoon. The transition is partly due to the scope and devastation of this deadly fire and partly due to the added advantage of increased professional resources. These resources may include engineers, chemists, forensic analysts and maritime vessel experts along with the ability to perform specialized tests on the collected evidence.
“The cause of the fire is currently labeled as “undetermined” due to the extent of the fire damage, submersion and resulting compromise of boat and boathouse debris and lack of witnesses during the fire’s earliest stages," said Fire Marshal Jason Napier. "Fire department investigators were unable to identify the heat or ignition sources, first fuel to catch fire or the actions that may have brought the ignition source and fuel together. As per normal investigative procedure, the Bellingham Fire Department will continue to monitor and assist in the continued investigative efforts to identify a definitive cause of this tragic fire,” said Fire Marshal Jason Napier.
Beginning Monday, April 16, Independent insurance companies representing a number of clients will be working along with Bellingham Fire and Police Investigators in this transitional phase of the investigation.
Currently, contractors are still working at the site of the fire and continue to pull debris from the water. Access to the work area will be open to contracted employees only at Gate 3 from the restrooms during this phase. Boat owners moored at F dock east will have access to their boats.
For more information concerning this press release, please contact Public Information Officer Mark Young. For questions directed to the Bellingham Fire Marshall, please contact Fire Marshal Jason Napier at (360)778-8422.