January 10th, 2011
02:19 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Lobbyist and former Congressional aide Ashley Turton, wife of a top White House staffer, was killed Monday in an early morning fire in her garage, according to sources familiar with the still-unfolding investigation.
D.C. Fire Department spokesman Peter Piringer would not confirm the identity of the victim but said the first emergency calls came in around 5 a.m. He said "the main theory now is that this was a crash event and then a fire" in the garage adjacent to Turton's home on Capitol Hill.
Other sources familiar with the investigation identified the victim as Ashley Turton, wife of Dan Turton, a staffer on President Obama's Congressional liaison staff. The couple has three very young children who were at home sleeping during the fire but were all brought to safety.
Turton's death shook up a close-knit political community already reeling from Saturday's shooting in Tucson that claimed the life of an aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and five other people.
"It is with great sadness that I share with you some news about our White House family," interim White House chief of staff Pete Rouse wrote Monday in an email to White House staff obtained by CNN. "Dan Turton’s wife, Ashley, died this morning at their home in Washington. Many of you have worked with both of them during their careers on Capitol Hill, and they exemplify the definition of public servants. We are making every resource available to Dan and his family in his moment of need, and we will update you soon about where you can send condolences to the Turton family."
"My heart goes out to my longtime friend and former colleague, Dan, and their three sweet children," Shanti Stanton, a lobbyist who previously served as a top aide to then-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.), told CNN in an e-mail. "Ashley was a dear, dear friend and the rock of her family. She was beloved by everyone who knew her."
Stanton said she and other former Congressional aides were still struggling to comprehend the tragic news about Turton, who was a longtime aide to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and met her future husband while he was serving as an aide to Gephardt.
"It's hard for me to put my feelings into words at this moment," Stanton wrote in the email about Turton. "I miss her so much already. She was a beautiful, happy, witty, intelligent; generous (I could go on forever) person. She was always there for her family and friends and it is going to take me a very long time to accept she is gone. It is truly devastating and I feel a large hole in my heart."
Fire department officials noted the fire was confined mostly to the garage, with some heat and smoke damage to the house. But the garage is situated in such a way that the rest of the family inside the house probably did not know the car had caught fire.
"Initially when fire crews arrived on the scene the people in the house said all were accounted for, an adult and several kids," Piringer said of Dan Turton and the children.
But Piringer said after the fire was put out and the heavy smoke was cleared from the garage, they found the person's body in the car.
-CNN's Paul Courson and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.