Survivor of fatal Rock Hill fire improves; cause still unknown

adys@heraldonline.comJanuary 10, 2014 

The condition of the woman who survived an explosion and fire Thursday that killed a 98-year-old man at his Rock Hill home improved Friday.

And a Rock Hill Fire Department report released Friday indicated that flammable liquid or gas containers in the kitchen hampered firefighters efforts to suppress the fire and an attempt to make a rescue.

Alice Crockett Wilson, 54, suffered burns along her left side in the fire on Hoyles Street in Rock Hill’s Boyd Hill neighborhood that killed Fred Cathcart, 98. Wilson was taken by helicopter Thursday afternoon to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Burn Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Her condition was upgraded from serious to fair Friday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Wilson had returned home after a trip to the store just minutes before the fire, neighbors said. She was outside the house when emergency responders arrived and told them Cathcart was inside in a bedroom, according to the fire report. The home had no natural gas service and no sprinklers.

Capt. Rusty Myers, spokesman for the Fire Department, said late Friday that the cause remains under investigation by the city’s fire marshal. That investigation could take a week or more, he said.

Flammables in a kitchen are common and no determination has been made if the kitchen contents played any role in starting the fire just before noon on Thursday, Myers said.

Neighbors described an explosion that blew the roof off the concrete-block house. The first firefighters on the scene tried to suppress the fire so they could try a rescue attempt, but “heavy fire” through the house was so extensive that no rescue attempt could be made, according to the fire report.

After most of the fire was knocked down, firefighters used thermal imaging equipment to find Cathcart’s body. An autopsy is being performed, but coroner’s officials have yet to release the cause of death.

Cathcart’s family and neighbors described him as healthy and active. He had lived in the home for decades, and Wilson was a tenant who rented a room there, according to Cathcart’s family.

Cathcart was retired from working decades in a textile mill, but he continued to fix lawnmowers and other engines, and was known for his generosity in the neighborhood. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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