3 kids, dad killed in Maine home fire; mother escapes

ORRINGTON, Maine — A fire at a rural wood home early Saturday killed a father and his three children, while the kids’ mother escaped and was taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, authorities said.

The victims were identified as Benjamin Johnson III, 30, and the couple’s children: two boys, 9-year-old Ben and 4-year-old Ryan, and one girl, 8-year-old Leslie, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Public Safety Department.

Their mother, Christine Johnson, 31, escaped Saturday’s pre-dawn fire and was being treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for smoke inhalation, McCausland said.

The home is in a rural area of Orrington, a town of about 3,900 residents that serves as a bedroom community to Bangor six miles to the north. Firefighting crews from Bangor and four other towns were called in after the fire was reported at around 2:30 a.m., and it took an hour to extinguish the blaze, said Scott Stewart, assistant fire chief in Orrington. The fire was reported by neighbors who heard a woman screaming, McCausland said.

The children attended Center Drive School in town, where Principal Roy Allen described them as “great kids, very nice kids.”

“This is just such a tragedy. It’s going to be devastating for the kids because it’s such a small school and everybody knows everybody,” Allen told the Bangor Daily News.

Officials from the state fire marshal’s office, aided by state police detectives, were investigating the fire. The victims’ bodies were taken to the state medical examiner’s officer in Augusta.

The Johnsons moved into the rented house about six months ago from Bangor, McCausland said. Johnson worked at Hollywood Casino in Bangor, and Christine Johnson is an author who worked out of the house.

Investigators are expected to return to the scene Sunday.

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