The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 9, 2011

Body found at hotel ID’d

Smoke inhalation from fire suspected cause of death

OTTUMWA — Investigators have released the name of a man who died Wednesday at a local motel.

Frederick Eaton, 48 of Ottumwa, was found by Ottumwa Fire Department personnel after they received word of a fire around 11 a.m. at the Royal Rest Motel on Roemer Avenue.

Firefighters discovered a small but smoky fire in one of the motel rooms, according to a statement from the city of Ottumwa Public Information Office.

The OFD confirmed on Thursday that the cause of the fire was “an improperly discarded cigarette.”

Though a local firefighter said he suspects the death came as a result of smoke inhalation, investigators say the official cause of death remains undetermined pending an autopsy by the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

Frederick Eaton’s obituary is in today’s paper.

Dangerous time for fires

A second smoking-related death this year prompted a reminder from Ottumwa’s new fire investigator.

Deputy Chief Cory Benge is Ottumwa’s fire marshal. He said smokers need to make certain their cigarette is out before they lay down for a nap.

“When we leave [the scene] of a fire, we don’t just go when there’s no more smoke, we make sure the fire is out,” he said.

Smokers need to do that, too. And placing the butt somewhere besides an ash tray can be dangerous as well. In the most recent case, the cigarette rolled off a table onto some clothing, which, after catching fire, lit the table on fire, too.

In the previous smoking related fire death, a patient may have become complacent, thinking they’d never had a problem smoking before, even though they were on oxygen. The fire marshal said the patient had a sign on their door that read, “No smoking. Oxygen in use.”

Smoking while using oxygen led to their death, Benge said.  

He said he shared these examples because they could help save a life.

“We hate to see fire-related deaths,” he said.

Anything else that could help Ottumwans?

“Yes, actually, now, with the weather getting cold, we [worry about] space heaters; every year we have fires related to heaters,” Benge said. “Turn them off before you go to bed, keep them three feet away from combustibles, and make sure it’s the kind that turns off if tipped over.”

This also makes a very good time to go check the smoke detectors, he said.

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