Investigators Seek Man In S.C. Hotel Fire

Authorities released a sketch Monday of a man who might have information about a weekend fire that killed six people at a Comfort Inn motel.


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Authorities released a sketch Monday of a man who might have information about a weekend fire that killed six people at a Comfort Inn motel.

``We're hoping that he would see that we're looking for him and come forward,'' said Greenville County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Shea Smith.

Smith would not say how authorities knew of the man. He also said it was too early to characterize the fire as arson or determine a cause.

``We're looking at every angle at this point. It could be an accidental fire, it could be arson,'' Smith said.

Smoke filled the motel quickly early Sunday, sending guests in their pajamas in a frenzied dash for the exits and the cold rain outside. It took firefighters 20 minutes to put out the blaze at the five-story motel.

But the chaos created when most of the 46 registered guests scrambled for exits instead of staying in their rooms may have led to most of the deaths, said Wade Hampton Fire Chief Gary Downey.

Four of the six bodies were found in a third-floor hallway, where the fire started. The two others were found in different rooms. A 15-month-old boy was among the dead.

At least a dozen people were injured, including three men and two women who were on ventilators for lung injuries Monday at a burn unit in Augusta, Ga. A sixth person also was to be flown there.

The building, erected in 1988, was not required to have sprinklers, said George McCall, fire marshal with the Wade Hampton Fire Department.

The motel passed its last inspection less than a year ago. But none of the standpipes and hoses in the building's hallways and stairwells had been activated and no fire extinguishers were used before emergency crews arrived, Downey said.

Greenville is about 105 miles northwest of Columbia.