Corapeake house fire claims one life

Published 10:29 am Sunday, December 20, 2009

CORAPEAKE – The community is rallying behind a Corapeake family who tragically lost a loved one in a fatal fire here Saturday.

George Woosley, 41, died in that fire, according to Gates County Emergency Services Director Billy Winn. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy.

“It’s always tough on a family to lose a loved one, no matter the circumstances that caused the death,” Winn said. “That fact is compounded when a death occurs suddenly and tragically, especially at this joyous time of the year.”

Winn continued, “If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s the fact that this tragedy has brought out the best in others. Since the word got out on this fire, we’ve been flooded with calls offering assistance to the family. Individuals, churches and others have offered money and clothing to the family.”

Winn said all offers for assistance are being handled by the Gates County Sheriff’s Office. He said those wishing to make any type of donation to the family can call (357-2411) or stop by the Sheriff’s Office.

The blaze was reported at 9:10 a.m. on Saturday at a two-story, wood framed farm house located at the intersection of NC 32 and Daniels Road. Winn said that home was at least 100-years-old.

Sunbury Volunteer Fire Department (Station 2 – Corapeake) and Hobbsville Volunteer Fire Department immediately responded.

“We were initially told that three people were living in the home – a husband and wife and the husband’s mother – and that all were out of the home,” Winn said. “When the first fire unit arrived on the scene, those firemen were told someone was still inside the home.”

Winn said several attempts were made by the firefighters to gain access to the burning structure, but, “it was unsafe for them to do so.”

The firefighters then launched an attack on the blaze, one which Winn said was basically contained to the second story.

“Once it was rendered safe to enter, the firemen began to search the interior of the residence, but that effort was extremely difficult due to the layout of the home,” Winn said.

During that recovery and rescue effort, the fire flared up again, driving the firemen out of the home.

Winn said it was around 2 p.m. that the firemen were able to safely reach the second floor where Woolsey’s body was found.

In the meantime, Woosley’s wife and mother were transported to the hospital for evaluation. Winn said neither suffered any life-threatening injuries.

Winn said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but it did not appear to be suspicious in nature.

He added that the survivors were residing with family members at this time.

The Gates County Sheriff’s Office, Gates County EMS, Gates County Emergency Management, Eure Volunteer Fire Department, Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department and the American Red Cross also responded to the scene.

The last unit cleared the scene at 3:30 p.m.

Winn said he would like to thank the Corapeake Country Restaurant for providing hot coffee and sandwiches to the emergency responders.

He advised all families to develop an emergency evacuation plan in the event they need to quickly escape their home.

“We all know that fire is extremely dangerous, but the biggest danger it poses is that it’s so unpredictable,” Winn noted. “I would urge all families to develop a plan of action in the event that they quickly have to exit their home. Practice that routine, including the designation of a safe area outside the home to meet.”