DURHAM — An electric space heater set too close to a living room chair has been cited as the cause of a Friday morning blaze that killed an elderly Durham couple.
From the way the bodies were found, investigators believe Johnnie Burnette, 85, was trying to rescue his wife, Mary, 84, when he was overcome by the smoke. Mary Burnette had been paralyzed since a stroke 10 years ago.
A neighbor was alerted to the fire by its popping and snapping sound, and called 911 to the Burnette's Chanticleer Drive home. Other neighbors tried to use a garden hose to quell the flames when they found their entry was prevented by locked doors.
Burnette was pronounced dead at the scene; his wife died several hours later at the UNC Burn Center.