Family in Fiji have identified the woman as Rukhmani Prasad, 60, an Edmonton resident for about 40 years, reported the Edmonton Journal newspaper.
“It’s really bad. Everyone is in shock,” said Prasad’s younger brother, Madan Kumar, 53, his voice breaking during an interview from Fiji Monday.
“How come the fire was in only one room and one of them could escape and the other one couldn’t?”
Arson and homicide investigators are trying to pinpoint what caused the fire that started just after noon Saturday in the upstairs bedroom of a house at 14716 32 St. in the Kirkness neighbourhood.
Firefighters had the blaze under control and contained to the bedroom in less than half an hour, but Prasad died of her injuries at the scene. Her husband is in hospital with burns to about 60 per cent of his body, police said. Police said they believe Prasad died of injuries from the fire and that there were two people inside the home when the fire began.
Neighbours went into the house before firefighters arrived to try to save Prasad but they couldn’t get through the heavy smoke.
Police are treating the death as a criminal investigation pending results of an autopsy, which has been scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Homicide section Staff Sgt. Bill Clark told media on the weekend that investigators have an idea what caused the fire but won’t release the information yet. “That is one of the reasons homicide is leading the investigation.”
Kumar said his sister’s son phoned him from Edmonton to deliver the terrible news.
“I thought he called me to say happy New Year and then he started crying … When they told me about that, I thought it was the middle of the night, they were sleeping and there was a house fire and they both were in the house,” Kumar said. “Then I found out it was in the midday. How could you be sleeping in the house and it caught fire in the midday
Kumar last spoke with his sister on Christmas Eve and said she and her husband, who Kumar identified as Surendra Prasad, had visited Fiji together in September.
“She was with me for about two weeks here … for my daughter’s wedding,” Kumar said. “She did not tell me anything about any problems. They were very happy here when they came here, but they had problems years ago.”
The couple married about 40 years ago and moved to Edmonton where they had two children, a son and daughter who are now in their 30s. The couple’s daughter lived with them but had left for work about two hours before the fire started.
Rukhmani Prasad’s friends and relatives in Australia and around the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific are organizing a gathering and prayer service to remember her, possibly on Friday, Kumar said.
Rukhmani Prasad has many relatives in Fiji and hundreds of people are expected to attend the service, he said. Prasad has no relatives in Canada but has a brother and two sisters in Fiji, said her nephew, Ravinesh Kumar.
“They are very disturbed and only crying since they heard about this,” Ravinesh Kumar said in an email to The Journal.
“We are very upset here in Fiji after the shocking and heartbreaking news.”