Officials still investigating deadly Thanksgiving Day fire

Investigators spent more time Monday sifting through the charred rubble of a home on Washington Street in West Point where 62-year-old William Brownlee Sr. died in a Thanksgiving afternoon fire.
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

Investigators spent more time Monday sifting through the charred rubble of a home onWashington Street in West Point where 62-year-old William Brownlee Sr. died in a Thanksgiving afternoon fire.

"In fairness to everyone, we want to make sure everything is checked thoroughly. We keep running into a lot of stuff that we want to make sure we check out. Until then, I'm not comfortable really saying anything specific about this tragedy," West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said late Monday afternoon.

Preliminary autopsy results and tests on items recovered from Brownlee's bedroom and other parts of the house aren't back, the chief said. The autopsy could come as early as Tuesday.

The tests on the recovered materials are being done by the fire laboratory in Batesville -- not the state lab in Jackson -- which could mean faster results but Wilbourne said it still was unclear when they might arrive.

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal's office went through the rubble Friday and took samples. His supervisor returned Monday. "It never hurts to have another set of eyes looking at things," Wilbourne said.

Brownlee, who was bedridden and lived in the home with his son and daughter-in-law, was found in the bed in his bedroom. No heater was found and Brownlee was not a smoker, Wilbourne said.

The son and daughter-in-law were not at home when the fire broke out at about 4 p.m. Neighborhood children playing across the street spotted the fire pouring from the bedroom windows and alerted their parents, who then called 911. One neighbor approached the house to try to rescue any occupants but was driven back by the intense smoke.

Rumors on the street that the victim could be heard screaming are not true, according to the chief and residents spoken to by the Daily Times Leader.

The daughter-in-law arrived at the house about 10 minutes after the fire was reported, neighbors said, while the son, who was further away in Una visiting friends, took longer after being contacted by neighbors about the fire.

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