First Posted: 12/11/2013
FORTY FORT — A woman was found dead by firefighters extinguishing a vehicle fire Wednesday afternoon in an isolated area at the rear of Edward’s Landscaping Service.
Luzerne County Coroner William Lisman said dental records will be required to positively identify the woman. He said authorities have a tentative identification and were attempting to contact the woman’s family.
Firefighters made the grisly discovery just before 1:30 p.m.
Police Chief Dan Hunsinger said the victim was found in the driver’s seat of a Jeep Liberty.
Edward’s employee Bill Bruch said he was in an office when another employee said there was smoke in the rear of the property. Bruch, who normally loads trucks in the service yard, said he thought it was a brush fire until he spotted a vehicle ablaze.
He said he grabbed two fire extinguishers as the fire was mostly in the engine compartment.
Hunsinger said officer Brian Casella smashed a window but couldn’t see inside due to heavy smoke.
Bruch said he did not know a person was inside the burning SUV despite standing a few feet away with the fire extinguishers.
“I couldn’t tell anyone was in there,” he said. “I got within two feet of the driver’s side door and couldn’t see inside. I would have done more if I had known.”
Bruch said he didn’t see anyone drive back to the area where the Jeep burned. He said there is no reason for anyone to drive to the rear of the property unless a contractor or another employee is conducting landscaping business.
“I’ve seen people drive back there thinking it’s a way out, but they turn around,” Bruch said.
The Jeep burned at the end of a dirt road on top of an embankment. At the bottom of the embankment is a field and the levee to the Susquehanna River.
Police, Luzerne County detectives and state police Forensic Services Unit examined the Jeep. Lisman removed the body just before 3:30 p.m.
State police deputy fire marshal Trooper Ron Jarocha investigated the cause of the fire.
Authorities said they don’t believe the woman’s death was the result of foul play as she may have suffered from diabetes.
Lisman said late Wednesday afternoon he was unsure if an autopsy will be performed.
Edward’s Landscaping was open for business at the time of the blaze, selling Christmas trees and other holiday gifts. The business is located at the end of River Street in a neighborhood of well-kept older homes.