Deadly Springfield car fire ruled accidental

Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 @ 1:02 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 03, 2015 @ 3:18 PM

UPDATE @ 3:14 p.m. (Dec. 3)

An October car fire that claimed 72-year-old George T. Miller of South Charleston has been ruled accidental.

The Springfield Fire Division said the Oct. 21 fire started in the front, driver side of the engine compartment near a tire.

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Miller died at the scene where his SUV stopped on U.S. 40 at the eastern city limits of Springfield.

Fire investigators said they had eyewitness reports that Miller drove the SUV more than two miles while it was burning before he stopped.

UPDATE (Oct. 22)

The fatal car fire victim has been identified as 72-year-old, George T. Miller of South Charleston, according the the Clark County Coroner’s Office.

FIRST REPORT (Oct. 21)

A man died Wednesday afternoon when his SUV caught fire on U.S. 40 at the eastern city limits of Springfield.

Shortly before 1 p.m., fire crews received calls from bystanders in the parking lot of the Chakeres Cinema 10, 3115 E National Rd., reporting there was a vehicle on fire with a man inside.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and has not yet been identified, fire officials said.

Witnesses reported that the Dodge Durango appeared to already be filling with smoke as the man drove eastbound on East Main Street. He turned right onto 4th Avenue, the entrance to the movie theater, and struck another car that was stopped at the light before pulling into the parking lot and coming to a stop.

One woman who called 9-1-1 said several Good Samaritans attempted to help.

“The car was smoking and he wouldn’t get out,” she told a dispatcher.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Miller said it’s unclear if the victim exited the vehicle on his own, or if he was pulled out by a bystander. He was found by emergency responders laying on the ground near the fully engulfed SUV.

Sheriff’s deputies deployed fire extinguishers onto him and the vehicle when they arrived.

“He was engulfed in flames and he perished here on scene,” Miller said.

The incident is being treated as a fatal fire investigation, and could take some time, he said.

“We’re going to gather the facts, try and determine the origin and cause of the fire,” Miller said.

Initially Miller said it was unknown how the fire began.

“I just can’t tell if it started in the engine compartment or in the passenger compartment,” he said.

Some model years of Dodge Durangos were part of a recall earlier this year because of a fire hazard involving a possible short circuit in their sun visors.

It is unknown if the SUV involved in Wednesday’s incident falls within that recall, but Miller said investigators will be looking into it.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is assisting in the investigation.