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San Benito
June 21, 2024

Fire investigator: No foul play suspected in fatal Panoche Road blaze

Fire investigators have a few working theories on what started the fatal camping trailer fire June 5 on Panoche Road that killed a woman and her two young children, but they do not believe foul play was involved, according to a fire department official.

Battalion Chief Charlie Bedolla, who’s heading up the investigation for the Hollister Fire Department, on Monday called the June 5 incident “strictly accidental” and said there was no suspicion of “criminal intent.”

The investigation remains open, while there are several possible theories on what started the fire. Bedolla mentioned fuel, wind and topography as possible contributing factors.

“But none can be confirmed — that was for sure what happened,” Bedolla said.

Investigators haven’t ruled out the possibility that a barbecue grill near the camping trailer may have been a factor, he said.

The mother who died in the fire was Crystal Asbjornsen, age 27. Her two children who passed away were Xavier Robbins, 3, and Rosa Browne, 7 months. They died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office, which contracts with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office for autopsy work.

It has been nearly eight weeks since the June 5 fire that killed the mother and two children, while there had been a delay in releasing identities because DNA was needed to confirm them, as the bodies were not identifiable when found in the trailer after the fire.

The three victims died in the fire to a camping trailer in the 20000 block of Panoche Road in Paicines. At 10:30 p.m. that night, the sheriff’s office responded to the Panoche Fire where authorities found the bodies.

The sheriff’s office has said a barbecue pit likely fell over and started the blaze. The agency is acting as the coroner in the case and has said it doesn’t believe there was evidence of wrongdoing that would spur a criminal investigation.

Sheriff’s investigators spoke to the boyfriend of the woman. According to Taylor, the boyfriend  received a call from Asbjornsen earlier that night, while running errands 40 minutes away, letting him know there was a fire outside the trailer and she was going to try and put it out. Witnesses also reported hearing screams on the scene, and told the sheriff’s office the woman may have run back inside in an attempt to save the children.

The boyfriend told sheriff’s officers he had used the grill earlier that day—and that he may have removed a piece of wood from the grill and placed it outside “to use later.”

-Kollin Kosmicki

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