08/19/04 — Fire kills man despite firemen's heroics

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Fire kills man despite firemen's heroics

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 19, 2004 2:08 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A bed-ridden Rones Chapel man died Wednesday despite efforts to rescue him from his burning house.

Firefigters Rodney Lambert and John Daniel Ivey had handed Leroy Bunn out the side window and into the arms of Mike Lewis, who ran with him to the approaching stretcher.

His son, Shonn Sovae Bunn, and Curtis Brock, Duplin's new emergency management director, had tried to go inside the house, which is on Summerlin's Crossroads within a mile of the N.C. 403 intersection.

Brock had been in the neighborhood and saw the smoke. Heat coming off the building sent them back, and they waited for the firefighters to arrive in full gear with hoods and air packs.

About three minutes later, the fire trucks started arriving at the house. The Oak Wolfe first-responders were followed by Pleasant Grove, Faison, Calypso and Mount Olive fire departments.

Rodney Lambert, the assistant chief for the Calypso Fire Department, and John Daniel Ivey, the assistant chief of the Oak Wolfe Fire Department, were hoisted through the window and into the room where Bunn lay bedridden.

Fire was blazing in the room next to them. They pushed Bunn out within seconds to Mike Lewis, who is with Duplin EMS in Faison. All of them were back out in less than a minute.

At the Pleasant Grove Fire Department's stretcher, the emergency medical technicians worked with him for a few minutes, got a pulse, took him up the driveway to the ambulance and headed for the hospital.

Bunn, 86, lost his pulse again in the emergency room of Duplin General Hospital. He died about five minutes after arriving, despite the efforts of the doctors. Investigators think he died from smoke inhalation.

A witness, Bobby Williams, said it was the most dramatic rescue effort he had ever seen in his 27 years as a firefighter.

Duplin Sheriff's Captain Stanley Jones said the fire was an accident. The valve had loosened on a small LP gas torch that was propped against the wall in Shonn Bunn's room next to his father's room. He had planned to use the torch to work on a spigot outside.

Jones said Bunn had just checked on his father, who was a cancer patient, and had returned to his room to light a cigarette. He placed the match in the ash tray and heard a "poof" sound.

He had tried to put the fire out with buckets of water and had gone outside to get the water hose to shoot water into the bedroom. He then tried to get his father out of the room, but he was overcome by the smoke.

"It was a very intense fire," said Jones, who stayed to talk to the deceased's wife, Mary Bunn, when she returned from running errands.

A few days before the fire, Shonn Bunn had been to Chapel Hill Burn Center for treatments.

In January, his upper body and hand had been burned while working on his car.