BROOKSVILLE — Once before, almost 30 years ago, Luther Roy Williams managed to escape the flames of a house fire.
The blaze left more than half of his body covered in third-degree burns, taking away his fingers but not his zest to live a normal life. Williams was a kind-hearted man, family members said, and something of a handyman despite the lack of digits.
"I never raised him like he was handicapped," said Diane Williams, his mother. "You name it, he could do it."
But Williams couldn't escape another house fire, and his body was discovered Thursday evening in the charred remains of a mobile home in the Tall Oaks Village trailer park, just north of Brooksville.
Williams, 32, appears to have died as the fire quickly ripped through the home about 2:15 p.m. Within minutes, the trailer was engulfed in flames, smoke was pouring from the windows and neighbors were frantically pounding on the walls to make sure there was no one trapped inside.
There were no screams or noises coming from within the burning home, neighbors said.
"We figured they were all gone," said Nick Lucas, the landlord at Tall Oaks. "We thought (Williams) had left earlier in the day and was out with his family."
Hernando County Fire Marshal Richard Tincher said the preliminary investigation shows the fire likely started as a cooking mishap on the stove. An autopsy will determine the cause of death, Tincher said, but investigators still aren't sure why Williams was unable to make it out of the home.
"We've confirmed there's nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary as far as the death," Tincher said Friday. "We feel there's no foul play here."
Between a couple of rainstorms Friday afternoon, Williams' mother and brother watched a crew tear down the scorched home where the mother and Roy Williams had lived since moving from Michigan three years ago. They wistfully remembered a man who strove mightily to overcome the injuries he suffered in the fire as a toddler.
Williams sometimes worked as a mechanic, tooled around on dirt bikes and occasionally cooked for his mother. Once, improbable as it might seem, Williams even tried lifting weights regularly with his brother.
"He was like a jack-of-all-trades," said his brother, Michael Williams. "Roy was so lively and so loving. He'd do anything for anyone."
To return the favor, the Williams family said they are trying to raise the money to have Roy Williams buried near his grandmother in Genesee County, Michigan. The family has established the Michael C. Williams Assessment Fund at local Wachovia banks to aid in their effort.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6120.