Firefighters who rushed to a fire at a Columbia condominium apartment found a woman dead and a man critically injured inside, but not due to the furiously burning fire. Both reportedly lived in the three-bedroom condominium apartment along with four children, none of whom were inside the home at the time.
Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the man was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He and the woman were believed to be in their 30s, but neither was immediately identified. Four children, two boys and two girls, also live in the third-floor apartment at 6007 Majors Lane.
Police said they were investigating the possibility that this was a domestic incident. Llewellyn said the two adults had visible physical injuries that were not caused by fire or smoke. Police are uncertain what happened, Llewellyn said. Neighbors said they heard a commotion and saw heavy smoke at 2:42 p.m. on the sunny, warm afternoon.
"I heard one of the kids screaming and pounding on the door," said Maureen Burriss, 55, who lives in the next building. She also heard a building fire alarm and quickly called the fire department, she said, units of which arrived quickly from the Long Reach station about two blocks away. The apartment faces Jeffers Hill Elementary School.
The Red Cross of Central Maryland is taking care of five families — about 28 people — but more were expected to need help, spokeswoman Laura Dennis said.
Malys Meadows, 49, a seven-year resident at the complex, said she was just coming home from work and saw smoke coming from the third-floor unit's front window. The smoke quickly got heavier and blacker, she said. The second-floor unit is empty, neighbors said, and the first-floor resident was not home.
"We don't know how it was caused," Llewellyn said about the fire. She said the first responding firefighters found the two people lying on the unit floor. "At this point, it does look like we have a crime scene," she said. The children, two boys and two girls, were being watched over by police until relatives could be located.
Howard County has investigated one fatal incident as possibly domestic this year — the deaths of Columbia residents Tracy Denise Hawks, 46, and her 18-year-old autistic son, Christopher Melton due to carbon monoxide poisoning.