TARPON SPRINGS — Firefighters summoned to a burning home made a gruesome discovery early Tuesday morning: the bodies of a longtime local businessman and his wife.
But they may not have died as a result of the fire. Authorities are investigating the deaths as homicides.
Steve and Flora Georgiou were discovered on the floor of their one-story home at 504 Chesapeake Drive about 6 a.m.
The Georgious had trauma to their upper bodies, said Capt. Jeff Young, a Tarpon Springs police spokesman.
He declined to say if there was evidence of forced entry or theft, citing the ongoing investigation. Police also did not specify the nature of the couple's injuries.
Steve Georgiou was 83. Flora Georgiou would have turned 79 today.
News of the deaths spread quickly in the city of about 23,000. Friends and family members embraced outside the home as the couple's bodies lay nearby, shielded by red sheets.
"They were very nice people," said neighbor John Karavas, 60. He said he had seen nothing out of the ordinary at the home. "No trouble."
The Georgious owned Anclote Marine Ways, a boat repair company, and Miss Milwaukee Fishing Co., a deep-sea fishing party boat that is one of the oldest businesses at the Sponge Docks.
Neighbor Susie Filaretou, 76, said she went outside Tuesday morning to get her newspaper when she saw flames coming from the home. She screamed for help, but no one was around, she said. She banged on the door.
"Nothing, nothing," she said.
Filaretou went to Chesapeake Nursing Home across the street. Someone there called 911. When firefighters arrived and knocked in one of the doors of the home, smoke came billowing out, Filaretou said.
Firefighters brought the couple outside, where they were pronounced dead.
After the bodies had been taken away, authorities canvassed the area checking to see whether neighbors had seen or heard anything suspicious.
The medical examiner will determine the cause of death, and the state fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire. An accelerant-detecting dog was at the scene Tuesday.
Taso Karistinos, 58, owner of the sponge boat Anastasi, called Steve Georgiou one of his best friends and said he had known Georgiou since 1971.
Karistinos said Georgiou was "a very hard worker and worked every day in the boatyard, no matter what."
"If this would not would have happened, he would be there (at the boatyard) right now," Karistinos said. "To be his age and working in a boatyard all day, he had to be a tough man. He loved boats and that boatyard. It must have been in his blood."
Georgiou was always willing to lend a hand or give advice, Karistinos said.
"Tarpon lost a good man, and it is a real sad day for all of Tarpon Springs," he said.
Steve Georgiou's nephew, Dennis Angelis, 55, said his uncle had recovered from lymph node cancer about five years ago.
"He was an amazing man. It's just so sad," Angelis said.
Angelis said Flora Georgiou brought lunch to her husband at the boatyard every day about noon.
"She was a very nice and caring woman," he said.
The Georgious are survived by three adult children.
Steve Georgiou started his deep-sea fishing business in 1947 with the help of his brother, Johnny. The Miss Milwaukee went out of commission about three years ago, Angelis said.
Junior Duckworth, who builds commercial fishing boats, said he met Steve Georgiou about 50 years ago. Duckworth said he was stunned when a friend called him and told him about the deaths.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "I just talked to him yesterday. He was at my shop yesterday and all of a sudden, the next day he's dead."