By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – An unattended kerosene heater may have caused Monday’s garage fire that claimed the life of Donald Coffman Jr., 54, who entered the building to investigate the fire and became trapped.
Carrie Ann Erving, who lives with Coffman in the 15000 block of Allen Road, awoke to the smell of smoke about 11:35 p.m., and moved her car away from the smoking garage at Coffman’s suggestion. She said he voiced concern that something was wrong with one of the kerosene heaters he had in the garage, and said flammable liquids were stored on a shelf in the vicinity of the heater.
Erving told investigators that after she moved her car, she heard screaming from within the garage. She tried opening both the front and back garage doors, but they were locked. She said she tried unsuccessfully to force a door open by battering it with a pitchfork, but was unsuccessful.
She said Coffman had stopped screaming at this point, and she asked a passerby to call 911.
Coffman was taken by Taylor Fire Department personnel to Beaumont Hospital, Trenton Southshore Campus, 5450 Fort St. in Trenton, where he was pronounced dead. A doctor said Coffman had third degree burns over 80 to 90 percent of his body, and showed signs of smoke inhalation.
Funeral visitation was scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 3, with a 4 p.m. service, at Voran Funeral Home, 23750 Goddard Road, Taylor. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)