VALRICO — A woman in her 40s was found dead in a burning car parked in a suburban driveway early this morning, Hillsborough sheriff's officials said. Deputies are calling the death suspicious.
Authorities received a 911 call shortly before 8 a.m. from 754 Cape Cod Circle in Valrico reporting a vehicle on fire in the driveway. The homeowner at the address told authorities he heard a knock on his door about 7:50 a.m. but ignored it, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
"Within a few moments, he hears a loud explosion," Callaway said.
The man ran outside and used both a garden hose and a fire extinguisher to try to put out the car fire. According to Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office records, the house is owned by Keith Anthony Spernak.
A deputy arrived moments later in response to the 911 call and also tried to extinguish the fire.
"But it's incredibly intense," Callaway said, adding that the explosion blew out the windows of the sport utility vehicle.
Firefighters arrived and doused the blaze. Authorities then found the woman inside the car, dead. Callaway said the medical examiner would need to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. The homeowner knew the woman and had recognized the car when he first saw it in his driveway, Callaway said. He did not release further details.
"We're trying to determine what that relationship was," he said.
Her identity was withheld pending notification of her next of kin.
The state fire marshal was investigating the cause of the fire.