By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspaper
LINCOLN PARK – A deadly house fire early Aug. 11 at 679 Mayflower killed three people, including a pregnant woman and a 4-year-old boy, and four dogs, and hospitalized the survivor, Richard “Shawn” Chapman.
Victims of the blaze were Caira Chapman, who reportedly was two months pregnant; Caira Chapman’s 4-year-old nephew, and Shawn Chapman’s caregiver, Angie Baker. Shawn Chapman, who is disabled, was unable to climb stairs, and because he was sleeping on the ground floor of the house, was able to escape the fire.
Fire Chief Steve Martin said firefighters from Lincoln Park, Allen Park and Wyandotte responded to the fire at 4:45 a.m. at the southeast corner of Mayflower and Pingree avenues.
Martin said on Aug. 17 that his department and the Downriver Mutual Aid Fire Investigation Task Force are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
The house was built in 1925, and neighbors speculate that faulty electrical wiring may have been the cause of the fire.
Allen Park Fire Chief Doug LaFond said Aug. 14 prior to an Allen Park City Council meeting that Lincoln Park firefighters were fighting a fire in Ecorse when the alarm went out, and the initial status was that Lincoln Park could not respond.
LaFond said Allen Park immediately sent all six of its on-duty firefighters to the blaze, and they arrived at the house fire about the same time as the Wyandotte and Lincoln Park crews.
Neighbor Jame Potoczek said Bob Chapman and his late wife, Robyn, raised their family in the house, and when his wife died, Chapman moved to Flat Rock and his son Shawn Chapman moved into the house in which he was raised.
Potoczek said the Chapmans were good neighbors.
“All you ever heard was laughter coming from there,” Potoczek said.
Neighbor Dewey Troutt, 69, who lives across the street, prevented Shawn Chapman from re-entering the burning house to try to rescue those sleeping on the second floor.
Troutt said he watched Chapman, who was friends with his sons, grow up. He said he moved into his house 35 years ago, and the Chapmans moved into their house a few months later.
Troutt said he woke up that morning to the sound of shouting.
“I heard somebody hollering ‘help,’ and I thought that didn’t sound right,” Troutt said. “I saw Shawn coming out the gate, there was fire everywhere, and I called 911,” he said. “Then as soon as I did that, I ran back over there, because he was trying to go back in the house.”
Troutt said he had to grab Chapman because he kept trying to get back into the house.
“I could tell he had a lot of smoke in his lungs,” Troutt said.
Troutt said Chapman was on disability, and walked with a cane at times due to back and leg pain, and said Baker, who died in the fire, was Chapman’s caregiver.
He said Chapman’s disability prevented him from climbing stairs, so he slept on the ground floor, while the others slept on the second floor.
Troutt said he thinks the house fire may have been electrical in origin.
He said the firefighter response time was probably typical.
“To me it seemed forever because it’s a fire and I can’t do nothing,” Troutt said. “By the time they got here they had a hard time putting it out – that is how hot it was. It spread so fast, they weren’t able to get inside – it was that bad.”
Troutt said Shawn Chapman was taken to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. He said in addition to smoke inhalation, Chapman had burns on his face and back.
“They are gone – good friends gone,” Troutt said as he looked sadly across the street at the burned, boarded-up house.
A GoFundMe page for funeral expenses has been established. For more information go to gofundme.com/help-lincoln-park-fire-victims.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)