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."