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Dec 3, 2020

Was Fatal Fire a Suicide?

Vernon Alexander Williams

Fire investigators in Dangriga are trying to ascertain whether a deadly inferno on Wednesday night was a suicide.  The fire erupted at the residence of forty-five-year-old Vernon Alexander Williams in Pomona Village at around nine o’clock. When firefighters managed to douse the flames, Williams’ body was found burnt beyond recognition.  Investigators say it was not arson and believe that the fire may have been set intentionally by Williams who was suffering from a bout of depression and had exhibited suicidal ideations.  News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

This crackling fire is a sad reminder of the tragic event that unfolded here on Wednesday night. A one-room, wooden house once stood on this plot of land in Pomona Village but around nine o’clock on Wednesday night a fire erupted, destroying the building and killing forty-five-year-old maintenance worker Vernon Alexander Williams. Everything was burnt to ashes as the inferno was massive and powerful. Patrick McKenzie was across the highway when he noticed the sky being covered by the smoke. He ran over to assist.


Patrick McKenzie

Patrick McKenzie, Witness

“I was sitting down. I was eating so I said let me move from the table where I was and when I looked out, where is the smoke coming from? Then I heard a bawling. So I ran there and I hollered for my other co-worker because he was eating too. That was because the house was already on fire. You couldn’t have done anything else. I just back away and left it just like that.”


The blaze was intense and it burnt quickly. Cries for help by Williams’ family were heard. They knew Williams was inside but the fire made it impossible for him to be rescued. The vehicle near the house was also on fire and its gas tank exploded.


Patrick McKenzie

“The fire all through the window, all on the furniture because the house is a small house. It has one room, one part off room, lock off. Because the bathroom is there and the room is there and this is the hall itself. I said, I know he was in the room locked up in there because the door was open, wide open. So no other choice, all I could say maybe the man could have help out itself at least.   Bawling, for help to take him out but we couldn’t do anything about it.   It was a big fire, sir. Because the butane and all explode after that, a big explosion. We tried to rescue but we can’t. We can’t enter the house because the house, the fire is by the door. So I just backed step and call police and done.”


Firefighters and police from Dangriga, eleven miles away, responded but by the time they arrived, the fire was at its peak – uncontrollable and relentless.


Kenneth Mortis

Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor, National Fire Service

“Pomona had a structural fire whereby eighteen by twenty Mennonite structure, approximately three feet above the ground was found already in the smoldering phase. Firefighters responded by the Dangriga Police Station which is approximately eleven miles away from the site of the fire. What we could have done was basically extinguish the hotspots.”


Williams’ body was discovered burnt beyond recognition. He was found on the floor of his bedroom, near two windows. There were no signs that he attempted to escape the fire.


Kenneth Mortis

“The position where Mister Vernon’s body was found was located off the bed on the floor, but literally in between two windows which posed the question why Mister Vernon didn’t try to make an attempt to climb out the window seeing that the window was not burglar barred.”


Williams was reportedly suffering from depression recently. In fact, Station Supervisor at the National Fire Service Kenneth Mortis says that fire investigators have received reports that Williams recently contemplated suicide.


Kenneth Mortis

“We have information from our counterparts in Dangriga who stated that a couple weeks ago, Mister Vernon was experiencing or he was talking about depression. The state of depression has hit so hard that my counterpart even went on to say that Mister Vernon even went on to talk about suicidal attempts. That information which revealed itself today versus the finding that he was in the remains of this fire could might have well been a mean and way to take himself out of the situation that poses his day to day activities. That is only speculation.”


And at this moment, fire investigators can only speculate what cause the fire. They are leaning towards the theory that the fire was started by Williams himself. But fire investigators are still trying to determine if Williams started the fire from inside the house or he set his vehicle on fire first.


Kenneth Mortis

“The car, a Honda Civic, was also destroyed along with the said structure. At this moment we had our team out on the scene to try and ascertain exactly where the fire started and how the fire started. Unfortunately, we were lacking sufficient evidence to determine an exact cause of the fire. The evidence has pointed to anything as if a malicious act. The building is a small enough building as you rightfully said. Had that fire started from the inside working its way outside the close proximity of the vehicle would have still caught fire. Even in the reverse. Hence the reason I mentioned earlier if it was something that Mister Vernon probably did by himself by setting a fire to a portion of the house from the inside yes the vehicle would have still caught fire regardless if in or out the fire started.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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