Preliminary autopsy indicates cause of death in Port Arthur blaze; fire chief updates investigation

Published 12:40 am Saturday, April 22, 2023

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Preliminary autopsy reports on a Port Arthur couple found dead following a house fire show they died from smoke inhalation.

Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson announced the preliminary autopsy results of Antonio Mendoza, 70, and wife Teresa Maldonado, 74, Friday.

The final autopsy results are not complete at this time.

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Benson said the investigation also shows the couple did not have any physical injuries or evidence of violence.

While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Benson said investigators are examining the house’s electrical system.

“Some of the initial indicators of the origin area are pointing toward where the electrical system is running underneath the house,” Benson said. “More work and review needs to be done on this, as this is an initial review.”

The home did not have smoke detectors.

The call of the fire was made at about 2:35 a.m. Sunday for the fire in the 4000 block of Griffing Drive.

Benson said when crews arrived there was heavy fire in the front and back of the house. The man and woman were found inside.

The couple’s granddaughter, Maria Ortiz, said her grandparents were “the sweetest and kindest persons ever; they would always smile and try to help everyone they could.”

She created a gofundme fundraiser to help with family funeral and response efforts.