State Fire Marshal releases Ouachita fatal fire report - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

State Fire Marshal releases Ouachita fatal fire report

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Scene of the fire // Photo by Lyndsey Price, KNOE Scene of the fire // Photo by Lyndsey Price, KNOE

WEST MONROE, La., (KNOE 8 News) - The State Fire Marshal has now released its findings on the fire in Ouachita Parish this week that took the lives of two teenagers.

The officials  report reads:

"Just after 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Ouachita Parish firefighters were dispatched to a residential fire at 266 Weldon Road, West Monroe. Upon their arrival, firefighters found the home to be fully involved with flames. After extinguishing the fire, it was determined that the two teenage occupants of the home had not escaped the fire. Fire officials requested assistance from the State Fire Marshal's Office to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

The bodies of the victims, 16 year old Mitchell Whitehead and 18 year old Kyle Phillips, were recovered from a bedroom in the southwest corner of the 24' X 60' mobile home. The two were cousins and both were grandsons of the property owner, Larry Cooper. The home served as Phillips' primary residence, where he lived with his mother, Samantha Cobb and his four siblings. At the time of the fire Cobb and one of her children were out of state attending a funeral, while the other three children were staying with friends in the West Monroe area. Whitehead, who lived with his parents at an adjacent property, was spending the night with Phillips.

Investigators have determined that the fire originated at or near the front porch of the home and traveled from the exterior of the structure into the interior of the structure. Investigators noted the presence of a significant fuel load in the porch area which investigators believe aided in the development of the fire. No suspicious circumstances have been noted at this point in the investigation. Through on scene investigation and through witness statements investigators have confirmed the presence of smoking materials in and around the fire's area of origin. Investigators are unable to rule out unsafe smoking practices as a possible cause of the fire.

Investigators continue to investigate the cause of the fire and the circumstances which led to the teens becoming trapped in the bedroom where they perished. The home was equipped with working smoke detectors and investigators believe that the teens were, at some point, alerted to the presence of smoke and fire in the home. A large poster bed and a nightstand which were situated in front of the only window in the bedroom, in part, served to impede their ability to escape the fire. There were other exterior exit ways near the bedroom.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning stated, "We have no conclusion at this time, but we will be working in hopes of finding answers to this tragic loss of life."

Autopsies have been performed on the deceased victims and investigators are awaiting results which will identify the cause of death. The case remains under active investigation."

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