Police identified the victims of the Steelton fire as Jafar Afshar, his son Saeed, and his two young grandchildren, according to a report. The incident was ruled a triple-murder suicide, though authorities have not determined a motive for the horrific incident.
Jafar Afshar killed his son and his two grandchildren by lighting their home on fire, authorities reported. The fire occurred on August 6 in an apartment complex above a convenience store in Steelton, Pennsylvania. At the time, authorities were unsure what happened to cause the fire. New evidence revealed it was a triple-murder suicide.
The 67-year-old grandfather killed 36-year-old Saeed Afshar, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. Jafar Afshar poured accelerant around their home and lit it on fire. The Dauphin County coroner, Graham Hetrick, ruled Afshar’s death a suicide. Hetrick ruled the others a homicide, according to reports.
Hetrick said that the cause of death for each victim was thermal burns and smoke inhalation. Authorities are still investigating the fire and are trying to determine a motive for the killing.
The apartment fire took place above Raja’s Quick Pick Mart located on South Front Street in Steelton, Pennsylvania. There was severe damage to the apartment and the outside of the convenience store, though the inside was left unscathed.
A passerby noticed the blaze around 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning. They started banging on the doors and ringing doorbells to alert residents of the fire. Police arrived shortly after but were unable to reach the father and his children in time. Police attempted a rescue but were blown back by intense fire and smoke. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was too thick to enter the second floor.
The mother of the two grandchildren was not home at the time of the fire. It wasn’t clear if she was divorced from Saeed Afshar. Police did not say whether Saeed Afshar had custody of the children or whether they were just visiting at the time.
A vigil was held outside of the convenience store on Sunday. It was quickly canceled, however, because the mother of the young victims was not ready for visitors. Mourners from the community moved the vigil to Mohn Street Park. The close-knit Steelton community was devastated by the tragic fire and wanted to pay their respects.
“I hope people look at what happened here today,” one man said during the memorial. “We’re all together,” he told the group. “You know, race doesn’t mean anything. It’s your heart. It’s what you feel for people. It’s love. Without love, we’re all going to be sorry and hurting.”
Maria Marcinko, the Steelton mayor, disclosed that Friday’s fire was the most deaths in a fire the borough has ever experienced. Marcinko also acknowledged that the apartment in which the fire took place housed another crime dead to the mayor’s heart.
It was reported that 47 years ago, Maria Marcinko lost her own to a shooting in the same room Jafar Afshar set his family on fire. She said that “you have to pray for not only these victims, these souls – you have to pray for the firefighters, the police officers.”
The mayor addressed those who criticized the firefighters for not rescuing the family in time. The mayor said that members of both the fire and police departments are mourning the family and wish they could have saved their lives. She pointed out that the volunteer firefighters showed impressive tenacity by getting to the fire station and then to the scene of the fire in less than seven minutes. Marcinko admitted that many of them are mentally scarred by the tragedy as many have never seen a person die in a fire before.
The mayor concluded her address by saying that “Steelton always rises. We always stick together. We always take care of each other We’re many countries, one people.”