Entering Trent Butt’s burning home, firefighter Ian Green said he used his right hand to hold that of his partner and kept his left on the wall, in an effort to keep them both together and guide them through the smoke-filled house.
First, they entered what appeared to be a little girl’s bedroom, where they checked under the bed and in the closet, knowing children will often hide when frightened.
Next, it was a child’s playroom, where they did the same thing. There was a little tent in the room, Green noticed. His own daughters had one similar.
Down the hall, the firefighters came to a closed door. Wiping condensation from their masks, they then opened it, finding themselves in the master bedroom.
“The room was dark and the curtains were drawn, but it was getting light outside,” Green told a jury in St. John’s Thursday morning. “I could see a pink nightie on the bed.”
It was five-year-old Quinn Butt, and Green says her nightgown and blonde hair stood out.
“It was just like she was asleep,” he testified. “Her nightdress was clean. She was pristine.”
Tucked in next to Quinn was her father, Trent Butt, his arm hanging over the edge of the bed. There was a gash on it and the blood had pooled on the floor, Green said. Butt was also moaning.
“It was just like she was asleep. Her nightdress was clean. She was pristine.” — Ian Green
A cigarette lighter smeared with blood was on the bedside table, Green told the court.
Green said he and his partner dragged Butt to the door of the home, where they were met by two other firemen who took him outside.
“I’m going back to get her,” Green said he told his partner.
Back in the bedroom, Green used his two arms to scoop Quinn off the bed and carried her, like he carried his own sleeping daughters, outside. He laid her on the front lawn, where paramedics and other firefighters then took over, attempting to revive her.
Their efforts proved futile, as did those of staff at the hospital in Carbonear, who — not knowing what had happened to Quinn — administered to her everything from sugar water to an opioid antidote to try to save her life. She was declared dead shortly after 6 a.m. and doctors knew she hadn’t perished in the fire. Unlike her father, she had no soot around her nostrils or in her airways, indicating she was not breathing when the smoke had filled the home.
Green was the third witness called by the Crown to testify at the murder trial of Trent Butt this week. Butt, 40, doesn’t deny he killed Quinn, cut his wrist and neck and set fire to his home. He admits to leaving a 10-page note, titled “Final Words,” in which he wrote about taking his own life as well as Quinn’s, in his truck. He says he doesn’t remember killing Quinn, only kneeling beside her and realizing she was dead, and that’s when he he wrote the note.
The court heard from four witnesses Thursday morning: Green and a fellow firefighter, a paramedic, and an RCMP officer who will continue his testimony this afternoon.
He was the first police officer on the scene, he said, and had just started presenting photographs he took of Butt’s home later in the morning of the fire, when court adjourned for lunch.
A photo of the back of the home shows significant fire damage to the exterior. Inside, in the open kitchen-living room area, a red gas can is visible.
The Crown also presented three written witness statements to the court: one from a paediatrician who had attempted to revive Quinn, one from an emergency room doctor who had worked on both Quinn and Butt, and one from the Carbonear fire chief. Butt acknowledged and agreed with their statements.
His trial continues.