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Stamford, Conn. — The story of the three children and their grandparents who perished in an early morning Christmas fire was already sad enough, but now that some of the details have been released it’s almost enough to make you slit your wrists.

At around  5 a.m. Sunday morning, neighbors heard Madonna Badger screaming as flames shot out of the windows of her million dollar, 19th-century house that overlooked Long Island Sound.

Badger had escaped the home and was on a second floor scaffolding when she was rescued by firefighters who had arrived within minutes. She told them her three daughters and her parents were still trapped inside. Michael Borcina, a family friend who was helping renovate the three-story home, had also made it out of the house. He told firefighters he had led two of the girls from the third floor to the second floor but they panicked and separated from him.

Lily, Grace, Sarah, Lomer and Pauline Johnson

Despite the firefighter’s best efforts, the three girls, Lily, 9,  and her sisters Grace and Sarah, 7-year-old twins, would die in the burning home as would Badger’s parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, who had been visiting for the holiday.

I thought all of that was sad enough, until new details emerged regarding the deceased and what they were doing in their final moments. Specifically Lomar Johnson, who had just played Santa at Manhattan’s Saks 5th Avenue on Christmas Eve, and his final attempt to save one his granddaughters.

After the fire was well underway, the entire family were awake and trying to escape the home as portions of it collapsed around them.

Firefighters, who were forced out of the home multiple times by the flames and intense heat, would find one of the girls on the third floor, her sister on the second floor with her grandmother at the foot of a stairwell, and the other sister in a second floor bedroom sitting on a pile of books by a window leading out to an unfinished roof.

On that same roof, right outside the window, the girls’ grandfather was found where he had fallen face down between rafters. He’d been trying to save his granddaughter and had died the moment he’d gotten through  the window.

Fire Marshal Barry Callahan said the fire was caused by embers carried from the home’s fireplace to a mudroom or an adjacent trash enclosure at the rear of the house sometime after 3 a.m. You can watch the full press conference below if you’re interested.

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