Bedridden Man Dies In Blaze At Home
Published: Jan 29, 2004

LAKELAND - An early morning house fire on Wednesday in south Lakeland, believed to have been caused by a cigarette, took the life of a 62-year- old bedridden man, authorities said.
Clayburn Eugene McNutt, of 3710 Rudolph St., was trapped inside his front bedroom while the house was destroyed by fire, a Polk County sheriff's report states. A medical examiner ruled the death was accidental and caused by smoke inhalation, said Detective Mike Douglas of the state fire marshal's office.

Burn patterns showed the fire came from the top of McNutt's bed in the old, three- bedroom, wood-frame house, Douglas said. ``All indications are it was due to careless smoking.''

McNutt was a heavy smoker and was paralyzed on his left side from several strokes, Douglas said. Occupants of the house said battery-operated smoke detectors did not go off, which probably meant the batteries were dead, he said.

Polk Deputy Joseph ``Shane'' Robbins was traveling south on U.S. 98 South about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when he spotted heavy black smoke coming from a residential neighborhood off of Winter Lake Road, sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Rodgers said. Robbins responded and saw two residents of the burning house, Tonia Combee, 24, McNutt's niece, and her boyfriend, Allen Bates, 22, running around outside the house, yelling for help, she said.

Robbins kicked in the front door but was driven back by the heat and smoke, Rodgers said. Robbins called for fire and rescue units.

Lakeland Electric quickly cut off power because power lines had began to fall onto the street, Rodgers said.

Reporter Bill Heery can be reached at (863) 284-1412