1. #1
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    Post Volusia County Fla--Couple Dies in Auto Fire

    Couple dies when car catches fire along Beville Road

    By JAY STAPLETON
    Staff Writer

    Last update: 28 January 2004


    DAYTONA BEACH -- Jason Svitenko was driving to the store early Wednesday, when he saw a car parked on the side of Beville Road.

    Driving past again 20 minutes later, at about 4:20 a.m., Svitenko saw flames licking up the doors of the white Volvo sedan, still running with its lights on.

    To his horror, a man and woman were sitting inside, staring straight ahead with "a somber look" on their faces. Svitenko, who banged on the windows and shouted at the couple to get out, said he is still "mind-boggled" by their reaction.

    "They just wouldn't get out of the car," Svitenko said. "I started yelling at the guy, and this is what was eerie: The guy looked at me, looked at his wife and started revving the engine over and over."

    Police and fire officials are investigating what led to the deaths of John Clark, 87, and his wife, Barbara Clark, 88. Investigators are trying to determine if dementia, suicide or mechanical problems were factors. The Clarks lived in the Spruce Creek Fly-In, a gated community in Port Orange, for several years.

    The car was fully engulfed in flames when police and firefighters arrived, police said. Both people were pronounced dead at the scene near Forest Lake Boulevard.

    County emergency managers will review the incident because Daytona Beach firefighters prematurely pronounced Barbara Clark dead at 4:40 a.m.

    When death investigators from the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office arrived at 5:58 a.m., investigators realized she was not dead, county spokesman Dave Byron said.

    Daytona Beach Fire Department has started an internal investigation.

    Firefighters at that time "rendered additional care," Byron said. "The woman expired at 6:12 at the scene."

    The county investigation will probe whether training and protocol were followed.

    "I'm boggled by it," said Svitenko, a boat builder whose anguish was evident on his 911 call recorded by Daytona Beach police.

    The 911 operator indicated she already knew about the fire when he called, but apparently didn't know anyone was in the car until he told her.

    She asked, "There's two old people inside the car?"

    "They're trying to kill themselves, I swear, " Svitenko called out to the operator, in the call recorded from a convenience store pay phone. "There are two people in the car. I got near it; they started revving the engine and just looking at me funny."

    Lt. Gene Stone of the Fire Department said investigators are awaiting the official cause of death from the Medical Examiner's Office. The cause of the fire is also pending. Police will investigate whether there was any criminal act that led to the deaths, Stone said.

    "Was it a suicide? I've even heard that," Stone said. "We're investigating to determine what it actually was."

    One question focused on what the retired couple were doing out so early in the morning.

    "Why they were on Beville Road at 4:30 in the morning, I'll never know," said Donald Hollinsworth, who lived next to the Clarks for seven years. "They didn't get out all that much."

    Police spokesman Al Tolley said detectives visited the couple's home on Spruce Creek Landing. They spoke with neighbors and were reviewing medical records.

    "We're even going to the repair shop," Tolley said.

    Hollinsworth, who got to know the "wonderful folks" who lived next door, said both showed signs of failing health in recent months. He said their air conditioning was often not on in the summer, and neighbors brought groceries to the couple "to help out."

    Last summer, John Clark drove his car into a neighbor's shrubs. Three weeks ago, Clark asked for help turning his stove on, which Hollinsworth found unplugged.

    "We noticed he was losing track of things a little," Hollinsworth said. "He was getting addled. I think he was confused a lot of the time."

    Clark had also been having trouble with his car. He asked people to jump-start the battery, Hollinsworth said, adding that he thought Clark took the car to get repaired at about noon Tuesday. "It's just tragic."

    While Clark and everyone else waits for answers, Svitenko is left with a grim memory of the couple's last moments alive. In hindsight, he said maybe they were "out of their wits" from the smoke.

    "I heard the woman still had a pulse," he said. "I keep thinking I could have done more."

    jay.stapleton@news-jrnl.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Default Related Story

    Woman found breathing more than an hour after death call

    The Associated Press
    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
    Nearly an hour and a half after rescuers declared an 88-year-old woman dead inside a burning car, investigators at the scene realized she was still breathing.

    Now, Volusia County Medical Services officials are reviewing the Wednesday morning incident, trying to figure out what went wrong in determining Barbara Clark's death.

    Clark and her 87-year-old husband, John Clark, were found alongside the road in their burning 1994 Volvo 850 about 4:20 a.m.

    The Daytona Beach Fire Department put out the blaze and tried to rescue the couple but found no vital signs, Lt. John King said. They declared the couple dead about 4:40 a.m.

    According to the police report, firefighters secured the car and waited for investigators to arrive.

    Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron said a Medical Examiner's Office employee and crime-scene investigators noticed Barbara Clark was still breathing about 6 a.m. Rescuers began first aid and called an ambulance, but she died about 12 minutes later.

    Whether Clark could have been saved if someone had noticed earlier that she was still alive is one of many questions investigators hope to answer.

    "All of the decisions that were made at the scene - what went into treatment at the scene - will be part of the review," Byron told the Orlando Sentinel for Thursday's editions.

    The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the fire.

    ---

    Information from: The Orlando Sentinel
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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