One dead in motor home fire

January 22, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - One of three people badly burned when a recreational vehicle caught fire Tuesday evening died at Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, officials said.

Michael Pennucci, 72, of Herkimer, N.Y., died early Wednesday, said Martinsburg Fire Chief Phil Martin.

Pennucci's wife, Rosmond, 72, and Grace Wells, 54, of Mohawk, N.Y., were listed in critical condition at the hospital Wednesday afternoon, a hospital spokesman said.

Michael and Rosmond Pennucci and Grace Wells and her husband, Arnold, 58, were on their way back from Florida when they decided to stop at the Shoney's Restaurant just off Interstate 81 at the King Street exit, officials said.


When they pulled their 1978 Concord camper into the restaurant's parking lot, it stalled, said Martinsburg Fire Capt. David Brining. Arnold Wells, Rosmond Pennucci's brother, tried to restart the vehicle by pouring gas into the carburetor, which is accessed through an opening between the front seats, said Martin.

Martin said he believes an "instant fire" started in the camper when a spark flew from the ignition switch.

Arnold Wells was able to get out of the vehicle, but the other three people were trapped inside, Martin said.

Although Martin said it's hard to determine why the other three could not get out of the camper, he said the heat and smoke probably caused them to panic and become confused.

"Their sight was impaired, I'm sure," said Martin.

"It was all smoked up inside," said Barbara Hess, one of many people who rushed to help get the three out of the vehicle.

One bystander pulled one of the victims through a back window and Martinsburg firefighters rescued the other two, Brining said.

From the time they received the call at 5:48 p.m., it took 14 minutes for city firefighters to arrive at the scene, rescue the victims and take them to City Hospital, officials said.

"I think that says something for our people," Martin said.

The two couples had spent a week visiting the Wells' daughter in Florida and were expected to return home Wednesday, said Marian Deal, Rosmond Pennucci's sister.

"It was supposed to be a joy ride, but it didn't turn out that way," said Deal.

Deal said the two couples frequently traveled together, but said Michael Pennucci, the owner of the camper, never had any problems with the van.

The Herald-Mail Articles