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Family day turned to tragedy in Annapolis mansion fire

Sunday was a fun-filled day for the Boone and Pyle families.

Lexi, Katie, Charlotte and Wes Boone spent the day with their doting grandparents, Don and Sandra Pyle.

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They went to Medieval Times in Hanover for dinner and a show of brightly dressed knights jousting. They returned to the Pyles' waterfront mansion south of Annapolis — nicknamed "The Castle" — for a sleepover. The kids, who all attended the Severn School in Arnold, would have Monday off for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

"They did a whole stay-over," said Toni Aluisi, a spokeswoman for the families. "They did this a lot. The grandparents took these kids everywhere."

Early Monday, fire burned the Pyles' 16,000-square-foot home to the ground.

All six are presumed dead: 56-year-old Don Pyle and his wife Sandra, 63, and the children, 8-year-old Lexi, 7-year-old Katie, 8-year-old Charlotte and 6-year-old Wes.

Workers have recovered four bodies from the ruins and planned to resume their search on Friday. While Anne Arundel County fire officials say they do not suspect foul play, they are treating the property as a crime scene. Local, state and federal officials are investigating.

The blaze damaged the home so badly that firefighters couldn't enter until Wednesday. Investigators have been using a crane and other equipment to move tons of debris.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," Anne Arundel County Fire Capt. Russ Davies said. "This is a massive effort."

Officials have not identified the bodies publicly or said whether they were adults or children or where they were found.

The children's parents — Randy and Stacey Boone, parents of Lexi and Katie, and Clint and Eve Boone, parents of Charlotte and Wes — issued a joint statement Thursday thanking fire officials for their efforts and for family, friends and neighbors who have offered their support.

"Our love for our family is boundless," they said. "Life is fragile. Make time today to embrace your loved ones."

Randy Boone and Clint Boone are the sons of Sandra Pyle and stepsons of Don Pyle.

Randy and Stacey Boone are also the parents of a baby boy, about 3 weeks old, who was not at the Pyles' home Sunday night, Aluisi said.

Friends and acquaintances spoke Thursday about the family and the close relations between the generations.

Don Pyle, a successful business executive, was chief operating officer of ScienceLogic, an IT company based in Reston, Va. Jon Bierman has been a friend and business associate since the late 1990s.

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"Seeing him [become a grandfather] was a lot of fun," Bierman said. "He loved the sleepovers. He loved playing games. He spoiled the heck out of them. Sleepovers were common; trips were common."

The children clearly loved their grandparents, too, Bierman said: "Kids are always happy over there."

Brooke Moore, a swimming instructor who taught the children, said Wes and Katie were fearless in the pool — Wes wanted to learn to do handstands; Lexi was a quick study who learned multiple strokes.

"They really became independent swimmers on their own," she said. She said all the children had an ability to make friends quickly.

"They deserve to be bragged about," Moore said.

Lexi and Katie played sports with the North Annapolis Sports Organization, according to Tiffany O'Donnell, head of the group. She described Lexi as a sweet, smart kid.

Officials at the Severn School's lower campus, for children in kindergarten through grade 5, canceled classes Tuesday but made counselors available to speak with children, families and teachers. School officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Dr. David Fowler, the state's chief medical examiner, said forensic pathologists have begun autopsies on the bodies discovered Wednesday.

Fowler said it would be "difficult to say" how long it will take to identify the bodies and officially determine the cause and manner of death.

In cases where bodies can't be immediately identified, he said, pathologists may use fingerprints, dental records, medical records or DNA evidence, which can take "an extended period of time."

Dispatchers began receiving calls about the fire at 3:30 a.m. Monday. The first call came from the Pyles' home security company.

The first firefighters arrived on the scene within two minutes. Davies said the house was fully involved, and fire and smoke prevented firefighters from entering.

It took more than 80 firefighters from several jurisdictions 31/2 hours to bring the blaze under control.

Fire officials said they are using crime scene procedures in case they discover any evidence that might be needed in any legal proceedings, but they said they have no reason to believe there was any foul play.

The home had smoke detectors but not sprinklers, which were not required in Anne Arundel County when it was built in 2005.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Kelcie Pegher and Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

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