Local News

Durham woman dies after apartment fire

Posted April 28, 2013

— A Durham woman who was trapped in an apartment blaze early Friday evening died Sunday night, family members said.

Karen Timberman, 49, was taken to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care after the fire at Yester Oaks Apartments, 936 Morreene Road.

Timberman had been resting at the time, and with the entire front of the apartment on fire, there was no way for her to escape. The apartments back up to other units, and there were no doors or windows through which she could exit.

"She did the smartest thing, and I am incredibly proud of her for doing it," her son, Robert Timberman, said Sunday. "She put herself in the bathroom, wet some towels and called 911."

By the time firefighters were able to rescue Karen Timberman, she had lost consciousness and had suffered burns on more than 35 percent of her body.

Durham woman fighting for life after apartment fire Durham woman fighting for life after apartment fire

She was taken to Duke University Hospital and then later transferred to the Jaycee Burn Center.

"This is the last thing that we expected – for something like this to happen to her," sister Cathy Eisan said. "She has been through so much over the years."

Family members and friends posted on Facebook and told WRAL News that Karen Timberman died.

Karen Timberman suffered from heart problems and moved to the apartment to be closer to be closer to Duke University Hospital after getting a mechanical heart that helps pump blood through her body, her family said.


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  • ICTrue Apr 29, 2013

    What a horrible way to die..god rest her soul.

    Fire codes in NC have gotten much stricter recently but it still won't eliminate every possible risk. Make sure that you think about that when you move to anyplace new...know that you have multiple ways out.

  • seumfithy Apr 29, 2013

    @ sendusmessage
    Apartments are built the same in NC as they are in every other part of the country. Some used wood, some other materials. All allowed by code. Most of the country uses the International Building Code and are built to the same standards. New codes are more restrictive than older codes and that is why you see variations in construction and egress. Concrete building do not reduce fires and prevent death becuase it is not the structure that burns initially, it is the contents. Maybe we should all have concrete furniture, beds, and cloths? People see a tragic story like this and immediately think the is a local pandemic of fires. In fact, NC towns and cities generally see fewer fire than other parts of the country, particularly older cities in the north east.

  • JJ20 Apr 29, 2013

    This is so sad! This could've literally been anyone who bought an apartment to be closer to Duke's hospital. My little sister is at Duke Children's often, so I've met several kids who live nearby to get the life-saving treatment they deserve. My prayers are with her children.

    I've seen how quickly old apartments burn... it was about thirteen years ago when the building we lived in burned due to a grease fire next door. Seven or eight years later, another apartment building in the same complex burned, and one man wasn't as fortunate. I think those apartments were made in the 60s or 70s (except for the one I used to live in... rebuilt in 2001 or so). So shocked people haven't sued the complex directly!

  • sendusmessage Apr 29, 2013

    Very sad and so sorry for that family.

    That said, I consider it totally irresponsible how NC building codes allow large apartment complexes to be made of such flammable materials (wood), with inadequate fire breaks. If you don't believe me, look at the news. Every week at least one apartment fire that destroys 5-15 units. This DOES NOT HAPPEN in other states that use concrete structures. But I assume the NC construction lobby has paid off whoever approves building codes.

  • ellengraham5660 Apr 29, 2013

    that's so sad. I saw an article on the news yesterday that pictured her son sifting through sentimental items trying to find anything he could to hang on to. That seems like such a sad way for this story to end. She apparently had a hard life.

  • Just Plain Common Sense Apr 29, 2013

    May God rest her sould, and comfort her family. Truly a sad ending to her life. WHY? The apartment building should have a huge lawsuit! Only one entrance in and out of an apartment is an accident waiting to happen, and is an awful way to die.

  • JimmyPhillipsSr Apr 29, 2013

    Very sad.....rest in peace, young lady!

  • wizakid Apr 29, 2013

    Very sad. Prayers for her family and friends as they deal with the loss. As a General Contractor in the State of NC, means of egress would certainly be required in any new construction but not necessarily enforceable on older construction. In my opinion, this should be changed and required. I urge anyone living in a home or an apartment with limited means of egress to make yourself aware of this. Also, make sure your smoke detectors and in appropriate locations and have new batteries. Wireless smoke detectors can be installed easily and are very inexpensive.

  • Weetie Apr 29, 2013

    Such sad news! Thoughts and prayers are with this family!

  • dixieboy Apr 29, 2013

    Are the apartments to CODE? -- They probably were when constructed. Codes change every few years (bear in mind that codes are basically the worst you can do and get away with) and these buildings appear to be pretty old.-- praying for the family.