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The Globe and Mail

Community mourns after fire kills three in derelict PEI building

Firefighters inspect the scene of an early-morning fire at an abandoned building in Charlottetown on March 30, 2014.


Residents of a Prince Edward Island town were told Sunday to support one another following the deaths of three young people whose bodies were found inside an abandoned building in Charlottetown after a fire early Saturday morning.

Rev. Gerard Chaisson of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in the town of Montague said people in the community were shocked and saddened by the loss.

Chaisson said he told parishioners during a service Sunday morning about the need to come together during such tragedy.

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"I said in this time of darkness for the whole community, this time of struggle and suffering, that we have to look for the light in the whole situation, for glimpses of hope," said Chaisson in a phone interview. "So many people have been affected."

Police have not identified the victims, but local media reports say they are from the Montague area, east of Charlottetown.

At the Montague Church of Christ, Rev. Ben Abbott said he felt deeply concerned for the town of nearly 2,000 people and also urged his congregation to band together.

"We don't know all the details yet or the names but we should be keeping our eyes and ears open and be there for the people who are hurting," said Abbott. "We are deeply concerned."

Montague Mayor Richard Collins said the deaths have been the topic of discussion in the community since Saturday morning.

"The community is stunned and in shock," Collins said in an interview in his office. "My heart is broken as a father and grandfather, and the community is heartbroken."

The Charlottetown Police Service said autopsies were underway Sunday and investigators had started speaking with the victims' next of kin, even though the coroner's office had not completed its work.

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Deputy police chief Gary McGuigan said officers will be dispatched to Halifax to interview a male who was found injured at the scene early Saturday morning and later airlifted to a hospital in that city. Police have not disclosed his identity or condition.

On Saturday, McGuigan said police believed that all four individuals were young people, but did not provide ages.

McGuigan said fire officials were still investigating the cause of the blaze, which left the building in charred ruins.

Police tape still surrounded the property late Sunday.

"We still have the scene secured, and officers will remain there until fire investigators complete their investigation," McGuigan said.

The small, green building had been vacant for years and its windows and doors boarded up. It was home to a number of businesses in the past, including a used car dealership and a golf driving range.

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The fire completely gutted the building, and part of the roof collapsed.

Eyewitnesses said the blaze started around 5:30 a.m. Saturday near the back of the building, and spread to the rest of the structure within a matter of minutes.

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