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Man, infant die days after house fire on Indianapolis' east side

Five unconscious in apartment fire on Elwin Drive 11023.JPG
Posted at 11:40 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 15:54:19-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Coroner says two people have died after a Monday apartment fire on Indianapolis' east side.

Raymond Diggs Jr., 31, died from burns and smoke inhalation. His death was ruled an accident, according to the coroner's office.

On Thursday, Jan. 12, 15-month-old Leilani Rembert died from her injuries, which were also ruled accidental.

The three other people were found unconscious during the fire in the 2800 block of Elwin Dr. which is not far from 30th Street and North Post Road, just before 10:30 p.m.

IFD says Diggs was the father of Rembert and the 3-year-old victim.

Indianapolis Fire Department officials say the fire, which started on a couch, was still smoldering but had mostly burned out when they arrived on the scene. The apartment was filled with smoke.

The photo above shows the inside of the home and was provided by IFD.

Crews found Diggs and Rembert unconscious near the couch. Both were removed from the home in cardiac arrest and CPR was administered.

During an additional search of the home crews located three more children, ages 3, 12 and 14, in a back bedroom. The three were also suffering cardiac arrest, according to IFD. They were removed from the home and treated before being rushed to the hospital.

"This happened so fast. Firefighters arrived on scene, and within 10 minutes of entry, they had removed five patients from that apartment, and all of them we had to establish CPR," IFD public information officer Rita Reith said.

The adult and 14-year-old were rushed to Eskenazi Hospital. The three younger children were taken to Riley Hospital for Children for treatment. All five were listed in critical but stable condition at the time of their transport.

Firefighters believe the victims were all sleeping when the fire began.

Five unconscious in apartment fire on Elwin Drive 11023.JPG

Fire officials say there were no working fire alarms inside the apartment at the time of the fire, but a smoke alarm was working in the common hallway of the building.

A smoke alarm base was found on the wall, but there was no alarm attached.

According to IFD PIO Rita Reith, apartment management told them the apartment smoke alarms were working approximately two weeks ago when they were last tested.

Brandi Townes came running downstairs to find the firefighters at her apartment complex.

"I just remember smelling a lot of smoke and having to climb off my balcony, coming down here to realize it was the family that lived here in this building," Townes said. "Keep prayers alive for them."

IFD says the mother of the children wasn't home when the fire started but met investigators at the hospital.

No other units were damaged, but the apartment above the fire had to be evacuated and the family will be displaced because the utilities had to be shut off. IFD Victims Assistance and the Red Cross are working with the families involved to provide assistance.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that a baby died Wednesday after the Marion County Coroner released her identity.
At 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, the Marion County Coroner sent a follow-up email saying "death is imminent" for Leilani Rembert, 15 months. On Thursday, Rembert died from her injuries. Raymond Diggs, 31, who died earlier Wednesday, is Rembert's father.