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Sunday 8 December 2019

Four killed in Blake mansion arson

Two adults and two teenagers were killed in a fire at mansion belonging to US tennis player James Blake (AP)
Two adults and two teenagers were killed in a fire at mansion belonging to US tennis player James Blake (AP)

Two adults and two teenagers have been killed in a fire at a mansion owned by US tennis star James Blake.

Police in Florida said the blaze - in Tampa's exclusive Avila neighborhood where many sports stars and executives live - was intentionally set.

A Hillsborough County Sheriff official said Blake rented the home to the Campbell family.

Voter registration records identified them as Darrin Campbell and his wife, Kimberly, but investigators say they won't know the victims' identities until preliminary autopsies are completed.

Officials said the Campbells are unaccounted for.

Colonel Donna Lusczynski said two adults and two teenagers were killed in the mansion. Blake was not home at the time and was renting the house to the family.

Ms Lusczynski said the scene was "unusual" and added there were "various fireworks" throughout the home.

Two victims suffered from upper-body trauma, but Ms Lusczynski did not indicate which ones or provide other details. She also said no weapons had been found at the home and that murder-suicide was a possibility.

Blake is believed to live at his main home in Connecticut.

A former neighbour, George Connley, said Darrin Campbell was the treasurer of Carrollwood Day School, a private school attended by the Campbell's teenage children, Colin and Megan.

"They were a very nice family, we know nothing of any problems," he said. "The kids were outstanding children. This is very difficult to put our arms around."

He said that Kimberly Campbell was "sophisticated and classy."

The fire at the more-than-6,000-square-foot home north of downtown Tampa was reported about 6am on Wednesday.

Blake bought the home in Avila in 2005 for 1.5 million US dollars. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it engulfed in flames.

Avila is an exclusive enclave known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various American football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the area, which has a country club and golf course.

Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006. He retired last year. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organisation dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.

Blake's agent, Carlos Fleming, said Blake was not in Florida. He declined to comment further.

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