Local News

Orange County Fire Leaves Teenager Dead, Mother Injured

Posted December 31, 1998

— It was a somber New Year's day for an Orange County family. They mourned the loss of a 17-year-old disabled boy who died trapped inside his burning home.

The flames moved so fast through the mobile home that Kenny Ray Brown did not have a chance to escape. Brown, who liked Nintendo, the internet and had a lot of friends, died in his bedroom.

Relatives say he had muscular dystrophy, but that he never let his condition get him down.

"In the last year I think I heard him say three times that he wished he wasn't in a wheelchair," says Sharon Dodson, Brown's godmother. "He was 16 back then going through those teenage stages, wishing he could get up and go and do on his own. He had to have someone help him with everything."

Kenny's mother tried to help him. She was the only other person inside. Cut off from Kenny's room by the flames, she broke out a window to get outside. But, the heat was too intense to get to her son.

"My momma tried her best to get him out," says Robin George, Brown's sister. "She told us at the hospital that she didn't want to leave him. She wanted to put him out and her be able to take his place."

It is a deeply tragic start to 1999, but loved ones are trying to remember the good things.

"He had a good heart," Dodson said. "He never let anything get him down and this fire, if he had to make a choice with his mother this morning, I'd feel sure he'd tell her to go and leave him behind."

Kenny's mother, Sharon Brooks, is in serious condition at UNC Hospitals Jaycee Burn Center.

Fire investigators say they are focusing on an electric heater and an extension cord in the living room as possible causes for the blaze.


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