UPDATED 02/16/11 9:35 a.m.

HAMMOND, Ind. (STMW) — A former Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune reporter died Monday afternoon from injuries suffered in a fire at her Hammond, Ind. apartment.

Marsha Hahney, 58, suffered smoke inhalation, but the exact cause of death is still undetermined, according to the Cook County, Ill. Medical Examiner’s Office. Hahney died at 4:26 p.m. Monday at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

The fire broke out at Hahney’s apartment at 50 Brunswick St., around 10 p.m. Sunday.

Firefighters found Hahney unconscious behind the upstairs apartment door. At first they couldn’t find a pulse, but paramedics stabilized her and transported her to Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Hammond before she was flown to Illinois.

Two other residents were not injured, but they are staying with relatives since the building was badly damaged.

Hahney worked for the Post-Tribune for several years, in addition to WJOB and The Times.

Post-Tribune staff writer Lori Caldwell met Hahney when they both worked as correspondents. She recalled Hahney’s dedication to telling the full story.

“For many years, Marsha Hahney was the ‘go-to’ correspondent when short-handed editors needed someone to cover a story at the last minute,” Caldwell said. “She approached her assignments with her trademark curiosity and tenacity. She was particularly interested in environmental issues and took time to educate herself about the topics she wrote about and the people who made decisions that affected life in Northwest Indiana.”

Hahney was committed to keeping public officials honest, particularly when they violated the state’s Open Door law.

“Marsha looked at the motives behind actions taken by public officials and often challenged their words and deeds,” Caldwell said.

Hahney also worked for the Hammond Street Department.

In August, Hahney filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Hammond, accusing Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. and other city employees of harassment, ridicule and libel in their attempts to prevent her from posting political comments on various Internet message boards. She also alleged McDermott made false statements about her on his WJOB radio show, and refused to let her call into the show. She accused city employee Steve Fowler of releasing false medical information about her on a message board.

Hammond Fire Inspector Kevin Margraf said fire officials haven’t found what started the fire. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the building owners’ insurance company will convene at the property on Thursday.

Margraf said an ATF inspector was brought in to avoid the appearance of impropriety since Hahney had filed suit against the city.

The house has been boarded up and a security fence was erected, in addition to 24-hour police protection.

–Post-Tribune, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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