Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fatal fire, river rescue linked

Woman dies in blaze, nephew drives truck into river at Lockport

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SELKIRK -- A 51-year-old woman died in a house fire here Monday and a few hours later, her nephew drove his truck into the frigid Red River at Lockport but survived the crash.

RCMP did not release the name of the victim of the blaze, but neighbours and relatives identified the woman as Gloria Sanderson. The fire, which engulfed the house's front porch around 10:30 p.m., also took the life of her black Labrador dog.

Gloria's husband, Allan Sanderson, was working a night shift when the fire broke out at the home on Taylor Avenue. Selkirk RCMP said there were no other injuries and no neighbouring homes were damaged.

The provincial fire commissioner's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

Then, around 5 a.m. Tuesday in Lockport, a vehicle left the road, went down the riverbank and headed along ice before it hit open water near the dam.

The driver, a 40-year-old Selkirk man, scrambled from the vehicle and was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Relatives said he is Sanderson's nephew.

RCMP would only say there might be a link between the two incidents.

The vehicle remained under water near the dam Tuesday.

Const. Paul Human, a spokesman for Selkirk RCMP, said there is always open water near the dam because of the powerful current, adding the vehicle might have been swept farther north beneath the ice.

RCMP have not ruled out alcohol as a factor in the mishap on the river, Human said.

"It could have ended horribly," Human said. "Imagine being immersed in the water, the shock of the impact."

Police said it's believed the driver was the only person inside when the truck started to sink.

"I'm feeling 75 per cent sure he was alone, and I'm going for 100 per cent," Human said. "The underwater recovery team has been there, and it's too dangerous for a recovery."

Late Monday night in Selkirk, John Johnson smelled smoke and went outside to see bright orange flames leaping from the front porch of a home two doors down the street.

Witnesses who watched from the street said the fire department arrived quickly and soon had the fire under control.

Family members say Sanderson was likely overcome by smoke. She came from a large family of four brothers and five sisters and is survived by two children and two grandchildren.

"She was a very enjoyable person, a funny person, on her good days," said Sandra Hohne, Sanderson's sister. "She had two grandsons that she adored very much. She was quite close to her family."

Sanderson worked for many years as a housekeeper for Manitoba Housing and then for the Betel Personal Care Home in Selkirk.

She would have turned 52 on Dec. 22.

"She liked to sing karaoke, she even won awards for it," said Melvin Langlois, another of the woman's nephews. "(She) had a voice similar to Loretta Lynn."

-- with files from Nick Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2012 A3

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