Site of triple-fatal Sioux Falls fire to be probedDrug charges against mother unsettles some supporters.
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Fire officials are preparing to go inside a burned-out home in Sioux Falls where three children died to try to figure out the cause of the blaze a month ago.
The fire early on Dec. 22 killed Michael Hensley, 16, Savannah Coon, 12, and Alivia Coon, 6. The children's mother, Rhiannon White, 34, and her husband, David White Jr., escaped the flames by leaping from a second-floor window.
The house had been too badly damaged for fire investigators to safely enter, and the danger of collapse was aggravated by a snowfall and rain in the weeks following the fire, Sioux Falls Fire Marshal Dean Lanier told the the media. Much of the evidence is frozen inside what remains of the house.
"We're trying to give it time to thaw out," Lanier said.
The house has now been reinforced, and fire department, police department and private investigators plan to start digging through the rubble beginning Tuesday.
"They'll literally be hand-digging everything out of the building," Lanier said.
An accelerant-sniffing dog will be on the scene to search for evidence of gasoline or other fuel, though Police Chief Doug Barthel said no evidence has emerged to suggest the fire was started intentionally.
Rhiannon White is due in court the day after the probe is to begin to face drug possession charges related to a urine test that authorities say revealed she had ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana in her system on the day of the fire.
The drug charges have unsettled some people who helped raise money for the White family in the aftermath of the fire.
"Our efforts, as great as they were, now, we have this cloud," Belinde Cordell told the media. Cordell is a co-worker of Rhiannon White at the Crow Bar, which raised about $8,000. Bar officials say the money will be used for gravestones and a memorial for the children.
Robin Fritsch, director of the Dakota Spirit cheerleading organization, to which Alivia Coon belonged, said the hundreds of dollars that group raised is secure in a bank account and will be used for a memorial for Alivia, according to media reports.