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Remains are found in rubble

February 25, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - Maryland State Police troopers going through rubble of a burned dwelling found Thursday what they believe are the remains of a woman who could not be found after the fire.

The discovery comes weeks after fire officials said they believed the woman, Carol Jean Bank, was not in the converted barn at 15033 Hicksville Road at the time of the fire.

Maryland State Police Trooper Russell Plante said the remains were found at about 1:30 p.m. by troopers who were assisted by a contractor cleaning debris from the scene.

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Plante said the remains were believed to be those of Bank, 55, who was a tenant on the first floor of the house. The remains were found in a pile of rubble that had been cleared from the area where the converted barn once stood, he said.

Plante would not comment on the state of the remains out of respect for Bank's family.

Plante said the remains will be examined at the State of Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore to confirm investigators' belief that they are Bank's.

"She was the only person from the house not accounted for," Plante said Thursday.

On Feb. 6, a four-alarm fire destroyed the converted barn owned by David and Donna Sue Dorsey, who lived on the second floor. The Dorseys, their three children and first-floor tenant Billy Nguyen, escaped the burning building. Bank, a tenant of another first-floor apartment, could not be found after the fire.

Fire marshals said the fire started in Bank's first-floor apartment. After searchers failed to find her body, Bank was declared missing, and state police launched a missing-person investigation.

On Feb. 8, Deputy State Fire Marshal Allen Gosnell said Bank was not in the building, saying investigators "tore that thing apart."

A cause of the fire had not been released by Thursday.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Edward Ernst said investigators believe the fire was accidental.

Ernst said Thursday that the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office also strongly believes, but is not 100 percent sure, that the remains found Thursday were Bank's.

Ernst said investigators had thoroughly searched the structure and debris three times before Thursday. He said it was the first time he has ever seen such an effort, which included K-9 search dogs, turn up nothing.

"The typical fire fatalities I've dealt with, we find the person fairly quick," Ernst said Thursday.

Ernst said investigators now believe Bank was on the second floor when she died. He said searching the second floor was difficult because of concerns of structural integrity of the converted barn, and the fact that there was more than 9 feet of debris left behind by the fire.

"She typically did not have access to the second floor," Ernst said. "We cleaned it (the first floor) down to the dirt on the floor. (Investigators) were not focusing on the second floor."

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