Victoria police release photos of potential witnesses to arson at priest’s home

Neither man is considered a suspect in the arson, but police believe they might have information relevant to the ongoing investigation.

Detectives with Victoria’s Major Crimes Unit detectives are hoping to identify and locate two men who are potential witnesses to an arson at the residence of a Ukrainian priest and his family on April 20.

Neither man is considered a suspect in the arson, but police believe they might have information relevant to the ongoing investigation.

The fire sent a young girl to hospital after she suffered severe cuts while escaping the fire through a second-storey window at the Caledonia Avenue home.

The first man is described as about 50 years old and white. He is about six-feet-tall with a medium build, short dark brown hair, and clean-shaven face. He was wearing a brown jacket with black areas near the shoulders, over top a black sweater, with dark blue jeans and dark coloured lace-up shoes. The man was in the area of Cook Street and Caledonia just after 1 a.m. April 20.

The second man is described as about 25 years old and either white or Middle Eastern. He is six-foot-two with medium-length dark brown hair that is shorter on the sides and back and longer on top and a short beard. He wore a dark blue hooded coat, olive-brown pants, dark shoes and an army green backpack. He was also in the area of Cook and Caledonia just after 1 a.m. on April 20.

Investigators say they received several tips after releasing video of a vehicle driven by a potential witness.

Yuriy Vyshnevskyy, with help from a neighbour, caught his three daughters as they jumped from the second floor of their house to escape the early-morning fire. He woke up to check on a noise and discovered flames after someone had apparently poured a flammable liquid into the the mail slot.

Vyshnevskyy, parish priest at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church next door to the home, and his family barely escaped with their lives.

In the course of their escape, his 11-year-old daughter landed on shattered window glass, resulting in a deep cut that severed a nerve in her arm. First responders were initially concerned about her losing a large amount of blood from her injury. She has since had two surgeries to repair the damage and doctors say that it can be up to a year before she can regain the full use of her arm. Her stitches will be removed in the coming week, but her arm will be in a splint.

While the rest of the family escaped relatively unscathed, the mental wounds may take longer to heal.

“We have received counselling services,” Vyshnevskyy said last week. “There is so much information to process at the same time. It takes time to prioritize the information and figure out what requires immediate action.”

The heritage home, next door to the church, sustained heavy damage, especially in the front entryway and stairs to the upper floor.

Police ask anyone who recognizes either of the potential witnesses or who has information about the fire to call the VicPD report desk at 250-995-7654, extension 1.

— With files from Pedro Arrais

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