Rotonda man dies after car catches on fire

SOUTH GULF COVE -- A 64-year-old Rotonda man died Tuesday from what appeared to be a heart attack after passers-by found him unconscious in his car, according to Charlotte County Fire & EMS officials.

According to Fire & EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins, at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, a man driving a Jeep Cherokee approached the intersection of Appleton and Sunberry roads, driving in reverse.

"Witnesses say he was going backwards and hit a street sign and then stopped," Hawkins said.

Passers-by ran over to the vehicle, which caught on fire, punched a window out and pulled the man out of the vehicle, according to Hawkins.

"He was unconscious at that time," she said. "He had no heartbeat and wasn't breathing."

Charlotte County Sheriff's deputies were first to arrive on scene and began CPR until paramedics arrived and took over. They were unable to revive the man.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

"We've had some conflicting reports from witnesses," Hawkins said. "Some say it was the car on fire, others said it was the grass under the car. Right now it appears the flames were on the grass under the car."

Hawkins said it appears the man suffered from a heart attack, but whether it occurred before of after losing control of the car is still under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol, which is conducting a complete investigation.

The name of the victim was not released Tuesday evening pending notification of next of kin.

You can e-mail Alyssa Schnugg at