Paraplegic Man Killed, Officer Injured In House Fire

A paraplegic man died in a house fire and a police officer was injured trying to save him. The fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. Saturday night at a home on Lavelle Drive.

Gulfport Police say officer Tim Bankston happened to be driving by at the time, noticed the smoke and ran up to the house to see if anybody was inside. Bankston was not able to get inside because of all the smoke and heat. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and is expected to be o.k, according to Gulfport Police spokesman Alfred Sexton.

"Certainly when we have an officer that steps outside and does something of this magnitude, we're certainly very proud of his efforts here," Sexton said. "We just want to make sure that he's o.k."

Fire Chief Pat Sullivan says the victim was at home alone when the fire started and was already dead when firefighters made it inside the house. Two dogs also died in the fire.

"The frustrating thing...we had so much fire when we arrived that they couldn't make the rescue," Sullivan said. "That was the main thing we were trying to do was get in. We had been told by neighbors that there was somebody inside there and that the gentlemen was handicapped and so they did everything they could to get inside and get to him."

Sullivan didn't know the cause of the fire Saturday night. He expected police and fire officials would be at the house all night investigating the blaze.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove did not release the victim's name, saying that other family members still needed to be notified.