Survivors are trying to pick up the pieces after the furious blaze that engulfed a $1.7 million-dollar Connecticut home yesterday, killing the parents and children of fashion marketing executive Madonna Badger, the New York Post reports. Her father, Lomer Johnson, had just landed his dream holiday-season job—one befitting his real white beard—as Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. "That’s all he ever wanted to be," a relative told the New York Times. "He stopped shaving the day he retired." The relative added that Johnson and his wife's 49th anniversary would have been today.
Badger's badly damaged house was torn down today after building department officials determined it was unsafe—little wonder considering reports emerging from the fire. One neighbor awoke to see “a ball of flames in the sky. ... The velocity of the flames was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was just all over the house." Witnesses say Badger and her male friend, who the AP describes as a contractor working on the home, were led from the house, dazed, supported on both sides. Today, the Post notes that Badger looked "devastated" as she was released from the hospital. A relative of her estranged husband, Matthew Badger, says he is "absolutely distraught."