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 House Fire Claims Life of Young Carthage Boy

January 9, 2008 - A house fire in Carthage claimed the life of a five-year-old boy last Wednesday morning.

Braden Westmoreland (see obituary) perished in the fire that destroyed his family's home at 104 N. East St. Three other family members, including Braden's mother, Ashely Watkins, her boyfriend, Joshua Davis, and their eight-month-old son, Kyler Davis, all escaped.

Rush County dispatch received several calls reporting the fire and the Carthage Volunteer Fire Department, the town marshal and emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene at about 10 a.m. An incident report prepared by Detective Jim Owens of the Rush County Sheriff's Department indicates that when Carthage Town Marshal Mike Onkst arrived on the scene at approximately 10:06, there were already local citizens there providing assistance.

Owens’ report says the house, a one-and-a-half story wood structure with aluminum siding, was fully engulfed in flames and heavy smoke when he arrived at 10:28 a.m. Several minutes later, rescue workers removed the deceased five-year-old, who had been located by Glenn Davis, the property owner and father of Joshua Davis, through a bedroom window.

Onkst told The Banner last week that in addition to the CVFD, firefighters from Raleigh and Posey Township also battled the blaze. He said it took about two hours for the fire to be put out, although fire fighting personnel stayed on the scene until that evening, continuing to put out hot spots.

In his incident report, Owens says Davis, 25, told him he had been sleeping in the bedroom and was awakened by the smoke detectors and Watkins' yells. Davis reportedly told Owens he helped Watkins and their infant son get out the bedroom window, but was unable to locate five-year-old Braden, and that when he yelled for him, the boy said he couldn't come to him.

Owens told The Banner that he obtained a search warrant the day after the fire and returned to the scene with a State Fire Marshal officer and an investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He said it was determined that the fire began in the center of the back family room, but that the exact cause was not known.

According to Owens' report, Davis told him he had shut down the house's gas fireplace, located in the family room where the fire is believed to have started, before going to bed. Owens disputed a report in the Rushville Republican newspaper that the five-year-old had exited the burning house, then reentered. "That is not true," he said.


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