SANDY — A discarded cigarette left smoldering in a chair ignited a fire that killed an elderly woman and her adult daughter Monday, according to investigators.
Geneva Florence Lazzelle, 90, and her 54-year-old disabled daughter, Teree Lazzelle, died from apparent smoke inhalation.
The daughter's ex-husband, who has been helping take care of her, arrived at the house just before 10:30 a.m. He found heavy smoke inside the house, 9490 S. Jene Drive (590 East), as soon as he opened the door, said Sandy Police Sgt. Troy Arnold.
The man called 911. Firefighters were able to locate both victims. Teree Lazzelle was found in the basement. Attempts were made to revive her and her mother at the scene.
"They were doing CPR on her," said neighbor Paul Butterfield. "Then they pulled out another person and laid (her) on the ground. They worked on (her) a couple of minutes and then gave up. I think (she) was gone."
Geneva Lazzelle was found in an upstairs bathroom and also was pulled from the fire, said Sandy Fire Capt. Chris Dawson. She was taken to a local hospital where she died a short time later.
Neighbors say Geneva Lazzelle lived in the house with her two daughters. The second daughter was at work when the fire started.
The younger victim had battled a long illness that had gotten progressively worse in the past year, according to neighbors. It was unclear Monday whether her disability would have prevented her from getting out of the basement on her own.
"She wouldn't have been able to climb the stairs by herself to get out," said neighbor Denis Maughan.
Neighbors said the daughter's room was in the basement. Dawson said the origin of the fire was the basement, but the daughter was found in a different room.
"We believe it was smoldering for quite a while, possibly hours," he said.
That smoldering eventually burst into an intense fire that burned very hot and fast, Dawson said. By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze was essentially smothered because of a lack of oxygen, he said.
"It was not a small fire," Dawson said. "It took off. It burned for a period of time. There was significant fire damage to that room."3 comments on this story
Even before learning what started the fire, one neighbor who wished to remain anonymous said Teree Lazzelle continued to smoke, despite efforts from others to persuade her to stop because of her deteriorating health. The neighbor said others would occasionally see small burn marks from dropped cigarettes on her clothes or blankets.
Neighbors described the mother and her family as nice people who were quiet and kept mostly to themselves. And others tried to help the family when they could because of the daughter's disability.
"We kind of watched them as neighbors," Maughan said, "be there for them the best we can. They were nice people."
Autopsies were expected to be performed on both women.