Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Apartment blaze kills Dunedin man

A fire investigator removes electronics from an apartment Wednesday after a fire gutted unit No. 2 at 3067 Belcher Road in Dunedin, killing one. Fire Rescue Division Chief Bill McElligott said the apartment had no working smoke detectors.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

A fire investigator removes electronics from an apartment Wednesday after a fire gutted unit No. 2 at 3067 Belcher Road in Dunedin, killing one. Fire Rescue Division Chief Bill McElligott said the apartment had no working smoke detectors.

DUNEDIN — About a mile into their 3-mile walk early Wednesday, Keli and John Isett smelled smoke.

It was just before 5 a.m., and a little further on the Dunedin couple saw massive flames bursting from the window of an apartment at 3067 Belcher Road.

They didn't bring their cell phone along, but they had to do something.

So the couple — John, a commercial lender, and Keli, a transportation supervisor for Pinellas County schools — started banging on doors and windows.

People didn't open up at first, Keli Isett said. But finally a door opened. Seeing the fire, the resident handed the Isetts a phone to call 911.

Dunedin Fire Rescue arrived four minutes later. In the meantime, as neighbors drifted out of their apartments, they realized the man in apartment No. 2 was still inside.

John Isett kicked in the door but couldn't get inside the apartment because something was behind the door, he said.

Firefighters brought a water line into the house, according to Dunedin Fire Rescue Division Chief Bill McElligott, but didn't see the man immediately because there was so much clutter — TVs, computers, electronics, fish tanks, newspapers, driers, skateboards and bicycles, among other things — stacked 5 or 6 feet high.

Eventually they spotted a man lying in the back hallway. Rescue workers brought him outside and tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

Neighbors who saw the man removed from the apartment said they recognized him as their friend, 58-year-old Larry P. Leclair.

Fire investigators and arson detectives went through the apartment on Wednesday to try to determine the cause. McElligott said it was an accidental fire, likely with an electrical cause. To his knowledge — and that of neighbors — there were no working smoke detectors in the apartment.

Of the four apartments in the building, only Leclair's was seriously damaged. McElligott said that one of the apartments was vacant and the people in the other two apartments were able to get out without injury.

"You just don't expect something like that to happen when you're just innocently going out for a walk," Keli Isett said. "I would feel better if we would have been able to do something for the man who perished."

Leclair lived alone, neighbors and officials said.

According to his boss, he was an assistant to the manager at the nearby Sears store in the Westfield Countryside Mall. He specialized in home electronics and appliances.

"Larry was a solid associate, well-liked by everybody," said Dave Hanley, manager at the store. "We're all going to miss him. It is terrible and tragic."

"He was quiet and caring. He would give you the shirt off his back," said Steven O'Brien, who lives in apartment No. 3.

"He's never been depressed. I've never seen him have a bad day," added Maria Findlay, who lives with O'Brien.

Bill Dooley, 48, a neighbor in apartment No. 4, said Leclair often enjoyed long walks on the Dunedin Causeway and frequented thrift shops and swap meets on his days off.

Leclair tinkered with electronics and just the other day, he agreed to help Dooley with some soldering.

"I'm going to miss him. It's still a shock," Dooley said. "I talked to him every day."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Apartment blaze kills Dunedin man 07/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  2. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'

    Blogs

    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.
  3. Eight refueling jets from Arkansas, 250 people heading to new home at MacDill

    Macdill

    TAMPA — The number of KC-135 refueling jets at MacDill Air Force Base will grow from 18 to 24 with the return of a squadron that once called Tampa home.

    A KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling jet, undergoes maintenance at MacDill Air Force Base. The planes, many flying since the late 1950s, are now being flown more than twice as much as scheduled because of ongoing foreign conflicts. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs couldn't connect on or stop deep passes in loss to Vikings

    Bucs

    If two things were established as storylines entering Sunday's Bucs-Vikings game, it was that Tampa Bay was still struggling to establish the deep passes that were missing from its offense last year, and that …

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) gets into the end zone for a long touchdown reception as Bucs free safety Chris Conte (23) cannot stop him during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Alejandro Villanueva, Steelers player and Army vet who stood alone, now has the NFL's top-selling jersey

    Bucs

    CHICAGO — When the national anthem started at Soldier Field on Sunday, the visiting sideline was mostly empty. The most prominent evidence of the Pittsburgh Steelers was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, standing all by himself near the tunnel, holding his right hand over his heart.

    Alejandro Villanueva stands alone during the national anthem at Soldier Field in Chicago. [Associated Press]