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Man dies in Martinsburg apartment fire

March 15, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fire officials believe a man who died following a fire in his apartment on West King Street Friday night was asleep when the fire started.

When firefighters entered the apartment at 3111/2 E. King St., Eugene Rivers, 48, was lying on the floor in the living room, said Capt. David Brining of the Martinsburg Fire Department.

A smoke detector was sounding when firefighters entered, Brining said.

Brining believes Rivers was awakened either by the smoke alarm or the fire.

Officials believe Rivers stood up and then collapsed, Brining said.

Rivers was pronounced dead at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

Although Rivers suffered a cardiac arrest and burns, the exact cause of death is unclear until an autopsy can be performed, Brining said Sunday.

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Officials say the fire was caused by food left cooking in a pot on the stove.

Rivers lived in the apartment for about a week, Brining said. Before that, he lived in a domiciliary unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, Brining said.

Three other people - two adults and one child - escaped to the roof of the three-story building and were rescued after firefighters set up a ladder to help them climb down.

"They all seemed OK, they were just cold," Fire Capt. Steve Canby said.

Rivers had family in Virginia and South Carolina.

The apartments are in the same building as Dennis Dodson Designs flower shop.

Damages from the fire, which mostly were limited to Rivers' apartment, were estimated to be about $50,000, Brining said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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