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Witnesses report "loud bang" before Troy suspicious fire

Updated: 04/07/2014 6:14 PM
Created: 04/07/2014 6:01 PM WNYT.com
By: Kumi Tucker

TROY - A bright display of flowers, candles, notes and stuffed animals sits on the sidewalk opposite the fire scene on Fifth Avenue in Lansingburgh. It's a tribute to 19-year-old Vanessa Milligan, who was a college student and nine months pregnant, due to give birth to a girl named Alina Brielle.

Milligan was found dead in her apartment at 271 Fifth Avenue after a fire began there and spread next door to 269 Thursday night.

Fire investigators call it a suspicious fire.

"Just a lot of things, the volume of fire, the fact that it extended next door," said Troy Fire Chief Tom Garrett. "It was just a lot of fire for that apartment."

Witnesses say there was an explosion or a loud bang right before the fire. Some reported seeing someone running from Milligan's house before the fire.

Police are looking into whether she died in the fire, or if she died before the fire and it was set by someone else to cover up. 

"The autopsy, while it's been completed, it hasn't been fully completed as to the cause of death, so we're still kind of up in the air right now about how she died and how the fire was caused," said Troy Police Captain Dan DeWolf. "Until we make a determination of both, the case is wide open."

Firefighters say they are still doing cause and origin to see exactly where the fire started in the apartment. On the night of the fire, crews were focused on getting to the person inside.

"The fire spread to the building next door, and while those guys were going down the gangways, the electric services were dropping from the buildings live, so those guys had to jump over live wires to even get into the building," said Chief Garrett.

Police say the investigation is taking time, especially because the body was badly burned.

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