Local News

Durham House Fire Victims Identified

Posted March 19, 2000

— The victims of a deadly house fire in Durham Monday morning have been identified.

Fire officials say Preston Wilson, a postman, and Del Williams, a lab technician at Duke University Medical Center, died in Monday's fire. The couple most likely died from smoke inhalation.

The two were sleeping in the front bedroom of Wilson's home. The fire apparently began in another bedroom on the opposite side of the house.

Firefighters responded to the blaze at 208 Northwood Circle just after 1 a.m.

Despite flames coming through the roof when they arrived, firefighters were able to bring out both people. At that time they were alive, but unconscious.

Despite CPR administered at the scene, the victims were later declared dead at Duke University Medical Center.

There was no fire damage to the bedroom the victims were sleeping in. Investigators say the couple could have escaped if a smoke detector had warned them about the fire. Investigators say no smoke detectors were found in the house.

"They were in a front bedroom. The window was right there. If you have your door closed, that prevents the smoke from coming in, which gives you more time to get out in a fire," says Kelley Wimberley, Assistant Fire Marshal.

Witnesses say the couple's 19-year-old son, who escaped the flames, watched the blaze in anguish, knowing his parents were still inside.

"I saw the young guy who lived there out the house. He was kind of hysterical because his parents were still in the house," says witness Marcus Wade.

"I wasn't expecting to find my daughter dead," says Annie Kennedy. "When I got there my other daughter was there, and she said 'Mama, she's gone,' and I just panicked."

Authorities say the fire was caused by a blanket that was too close to a space heater.

Duke Power was called to the scene because of live power lines that fell to the ground while firefighters battled the blaze.

Two firefighters suffered minor burns.

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