Fatal fire ruled accidental, smoking probable cause

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Firefighters pulled a mother and a son from a burning home on Pinehurst Avenue early Thursday morning, but were unable to save them. A third person who was in the home survived. She told 2 NEWS that she had to jump to her neighbor’s roof in order to get out of the burning house.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office told 2 NEWS the victims are 15-year-old Ricky Turner and 37-year-old Tia Strickland.

Firefighters said the home was engulfed in flames when they arrived shortly after 1 a.m. Assistant Fire Chief Michael Caudill told media that, “We’re very positive that it was an accidental fire and we believe smoking was very likely the cause.”

They are investigating whether smoking started the fire in the middle of the duplex.

Pinehurst Avenue fatal fire
Firefighters rush to a burning home on Pinehurst Avenue, May 1, 2014. A mother and her son died in the fire. (WDTN Photo/Bear Everett)

Caudill said they found Strickland on the first floor by the door, which was dead bolted. Investigators believe given her proximity to the door that she was trying to escape.

Turner was found on the second floor between a bed and window, also mostly likely attempting to flea.

Investigators believe both died from smoke inhalation.

Tana Stewart, the only survivor and Strickland’s, escaped and was transported to a local hospital.

Lasonya Walker, a neighbor, told 2 NEWS she heard screams and the sound of someone banging on her window upstairs.

“I just woke my kids up and came outside. She was on my roof. Some other neighbor came out and tried to break open the door and get the kids, and he other person out . We called the fired department, and by the time we got the door open, there was smoke coming out the windows and we saw fire,” Walker said.

Authorities said there were two smoke detectors in the house and neither were functional.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates three out of every five deaths from house fires are because of malfunctioning smoke detectors.

Local fire officials said it’s a figure they want to see go down.

“The difference between life and death… most of the time  is whether or not you have a working smoke detector that will wake you up in the middle of the night if you’re asleep and you do have a fire. So, they’re absolutely critical and a life and, uh, death matter for families,” said Gaylynn Jordan, president of the Dayton firefighters union.

Both a cat and dog also died in the fire.

2 NEWS spoke with Strickland’s fiance and her son about the tragedy.

Red Cross is helping Stewart with food and shelter, as she and Strickland’s family prepare to say their final goodbyes.

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