Long Beach House Fire Turns Deadly - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/17/05

Long Beach House Fire Turns Deadly

The family of a disabled Long Beach man is mourning his death.

Harrison County coroner Gary Hargrove says 56-year-old William O'Neal died of smoke inhalation.

Officials say O'Neal was alone inside his home on Kuyrkendal Place Saturday night when fire broke out.

Officials are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

While all looked calm on the outside, firefighters say inside of the Long Beach home on Saturday night there was a deadly combination of heat and smoke.

On Sunday morning, investigators tried to figure out just how long the house fire had gone unnoticed.

"The fire had developed without being detected by anyone neighbors or anybody and had burned itself down to a smoldering state so the house was full of smoke, full of heat but very minimal fire," said Scott Dubuisson with the Long Beach Fire Department.

The victim's family told WLOX news that his daughter went to check on him Saturday night and discovered the house full of smoke.

She ran to a neighbor's to dial 911 but it would take time before anyone would be able to go inside the house.

"The unprotected firefighter that was first on scene was unable to go in and immediately sent the first crew in with the fire gear on," said Dubuisson. "The victim was only a few feet inside the home but the heat it was intense, very intense."

Intense heat and smoke is what officials say ultimately killed O'Neal.

Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie says O'Neal worked as the city's superintendent of the water and sewer department for more than a decade before suffering a stroke.

Firefighters say the reaction to news of O'Neal's death was overwhelming.

"In 20 years in the fire service I've never seen such an outpouring of family and friends arriving at the scene. The entire street from one end to another was filled with vehicles and family members," said Dubuisson.

Fire investigators are still trying to figure out what how the fire started but have ruled out foul play.

By Danielle Thomas

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