Cause of weekend fatal fire still unknownInvestigators find no foul play but don’t know what started local blaze.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
The investigation into the early Saturday morning fire that killed a 59-year-old Mitchell woman and destroyed a trailer home is finished with the cause of the fire still undetermined, Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg said Monday.
An autopsy of the woman killed in the fire, Cheryl Roop, was completed Monday and found no signs of foul play, Overweg said. Since investigators have already ruled out criminal wrongdoing as a cause of the fire, Overweg said the official investigation of the incident is now over.
An official cause of death has not been determined, Overweg said, but the autopsy has revealed Roop’s injuries to be consistent with someone who has been in a fire.
“Our job is to rule if it is suspicious or not,” he said, adding interviews with neighbors and other witnesses are also finished.
The investigation had been ongoing since firefighters were alerted at 4:06 a.m. Saturday of a trailer home fire at 900 W. Second Ave., Lot 43. When firefighters arrived, the trailer was already erupting with flames.
Investigators have determined the fire likely started in the trailer’s north-side living room area, but remain unsure of the cause, Overweg said.
Roop, who was reportedly disabled and had difficulty walking due to a stroke, apparently became trapped in the trailer after the fire started.
Roop’s daughter and 4-month-old grand- son, as well as another middle-aged man, were also in the trailer when the fire started but were able to escape. All were treated and released for smoke inhalation at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell.
The names of the others in the home have not been released by investigators.
A donation box to benefit Roop’s family has been set up near the site of the fire.
The trailer and several sheds around the property have been deemed a total loss. An estimate of the total dollar amount in damages is not yet available, Overweg said.
With several other trailer homes nearby, Overweg praised firefighters for quickly containing the fire.
“We’re very fortunate they were able to contain this to one trailer,” he said.
Just a week before this incident, on Sept. 22, another trailer home at 1116 E. First Ave., Lot 34, burned down. No one was hurt in that incident.
It was also the second fire to claim a life in Mitchell this year. On April 21, 3-year-old Jaxon Sehnert died of smoke inhalation after a fire at his family’s home at 222 W. Sixth Ave.