Body found after Fire dept left the scene

Grand Rapid Press

HASTINGS -- The sight was terrifying, Johnny Montes said of seeing his father-in-law's scorched remains in the shell of a burned car.

He cannot fathom how Hastings firefighters missed making the grim discovery when they extinguished the driveway car fire Friday morning, then cleared the scene after leaving a note on the door advising about insurance notifications.

"You couldn't miss it," an incredulous Montes said Tuesday. "There was no way of overlooking (the remains). There was no possible way."

The remains of Paul E. Bailey Sr., 62, were discovered in the driver's seat of a Monte Carlo by his daughter about 2 1/2 hours after the Hastings Fire Department left Bailey's home on Far Away Drive in Rutland Township.

State police at the Hastings post are investigating the death as fire officials conduct an internal review, trying to determine how the remains were missed.

Fire Chief Roger Caris, who was not at the fire, defended his department Tuesday. He said a badly burned body, particularly one exposed to extreme heat and flames, might be difficult to recognize.

"The car was totally destroyed," Caris said.

Caris was told firefighters examined the car before leaving the scene and even tried to find the vehicle identification number. He said he believes they opened the car door to look inside.

"We always check everything over to make sure the fire is out," he said. "They looked in the windshield."

But Montes, who is married to Bailey's daughter, Renee, said he could see Bailey's skull and other bones inside the car.

The disturbing mental images have caused sleeping problems, and Montes said both he and his wife are on medication.

"It's killing us," he said.

Autopsy results were not available Tuesday, but Montes questioned whether Bailey might have suffered a heart attack and dropped a cigarette inside the car.

Montes said he believes fire officials should apologize.

"They haven't even said they made a mistake," Montes said. "They are making excuses."

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Comment by anne potter on September 6, 2008 at 4:44am
My thought is that Here police would had responded also ... . After the fire and clean up .. I just can not believe that you could not see a body....But in all fairness I was not there so I can not comment on what happen,except that I am sure this did not happen on purpose..
Comment by Capt.Alex Arnold on September 5, 2008 at 11:52am
oh yes that is very true there is alot of "wonderful" aromas involved with a car fire. I see in Randy's other post that they have sent a letter of condolences and apology to the family. Thank you to our fellow FF's and adminastrators of that dept. To many times the blame game is played for days and weeks after an "error" like this. All that happens then is hurt feelings and upset citizens. Remember we are in the "worst day of their lives" business, let's not do things to make it worse. Be safe and learn something new today.
Comment by Joe Stoltz on September 4, 2008 at 10:10pm
We had one a couple of years ago, a man in the drivers' seat. The police asked us to look inside to confirm he was in there. Two of us looked several times each, before we could say "Oh, yeah..."

Very little odor, it must have been mixed in with all the other pleasant aromas emanating from the car - or what was left of it.
Comment by Brian Dumser on September 4, 2008 at 9:27pm
I would think that a burned human body would be hard to miss, but like the man said, I wasn't there.
Comment by Capt.Alex Arnold on September 4, 2008 at 6:08pm
I couldn't agree more, DANNNNG!!!! I am far from the most experienced FF here in the Nation but come on. I've been on many car fires, including a few with bodies in them. Couldn't they smell the burnt body. That is a smell like no other. You get one wiff of completely burnt flesh and you never forget that "aroma". Didn't they do a little of C and O (cause and orgin)? that is common practice here no matter what caught fire. They must have if they left a note about insurance. I am sure that this is not the first time this has happened. Of course there is some degree of speculation on all of our part because we weren't there. I have to agree though the department should acknowledge a lack of something. It is the little things like this that may tarnish that department. Communities remember things like this alot longer than they do the good things that we do. I hope that the family can find peace in their loss and the department can learn a very valuable lesson. Be Safe and learn something new today (like from this story.)
Comment by FF Schoen on September 4, 2008 at 3:49pm
I saw that and couldn't believe it until I read it again. I wasn't there so I don't have the right to say anything about why they wouldn't see the body but Dannnnnnnnnnnnnng, I would hate to be the crew responsible having to face the family when it comes to that point in time.

FF Schoen

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