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Local woman dies in fire

May 12, 2006|By Lauren Vane

A Costa Mesa woman died Thursday morning after she intentionally set fire to her mattress and barricaded herself inside her apartment, officials said.

Firefighters found 36-year-old Donna Michelle Sansevero lying unconscious in the bathroom of her second-story apartment at the Park Mesa Villas.

Sansevero was taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, where she was pronounced dead. The cause of death was smoke inhalation, officials said.

The blaze did not spread to adjoining units in the large apartment complex, and no one else was hurt.

A maintenance worker at the apartment complex in the 500 block of Paularino Avenue saw smoke coming from the apartment at 9 a.m. on Thursday. When firefighters arrived and tried to enter the apartment, they found the door blocked.

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"There were tables and chairs and luggage barricaded against the door," Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Chip Dill said.

Sansevero was found inside a locked bathroom adjacent to the bedroom.

Fire investigators and police detectives ruled Sansevero's death a suicide because the doors were barricaded and locked, officials said.

"She did not want anybody to get in and help her," said Costa Mesa Fire Battalion Chief Fred Seguin.

Investigators believe the fire originated on the mattress, but it's unknown what Sansevero used to start the fire. The mattress was burned to the springs.

Firefighters first on the scene saw no flames but did see smoke around the windows and doors of the second-floor apartment.

The fire likely had been smothered by lack of oxygen before firefighters arrived, Seguin said.

The apartment had a smoke detector ? though firefighters don't yet know whether it was in working condition ? but it was not equipped with a sprinkler system.

"The whole apartment had extreme smoke damage," Dill said.

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