Two men perish in May 30 fire 6/3/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

John Hallmark

Two men perish in May 30 fire

By John Howell 

and De’Issac House

Funerals were held Sunday for two men who died early Friday in a mobile home fire northeast of Courtland between I-55 and the Eureka Road.

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Panola County Deputy Sheriff Lt. Mike Davis said the fire that claimed John Wesley Hallmark, 64, and Jeffrey Scott Capwell, 52, was of accidental origin.

“It was not incineration; nothing started it,” Davis said Friday after he, Lt. Gerald White and Deputy State Fire Marshall David Borgognoni completed an inspection of the gutted trailer  at 84 Dawn Cove, Courtland, where the men died.

Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge said that Capwell had initially escaped the burning trailer but re-entered when he discovered that Hallmark was still inside.

Grant-Gulledge said that the bodies were recovered and removed even as firefighters battled the blaze. She said it was a scene with “heavy, heavy smoke” with little wind to disperse it.

Autopsies confirmed that both men died from smoke inhalation, the coroner said.

Courtland Volunteer Fire Department Chief Michael Purdy said that about 30 to 35 first responders mustered to the scene when the initial 911 emergency call at 12:30 a.m. reporting the fire also revealed that two people were inside. 

Home owner Rita Hallmark and another occupant, Johnna Moore, escaped the fire, Purdy said. 

“They thought he (John Hallmark) went to sleep with a cigarette,” Panola Deputy Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Lee Bryant said.

“On my way to the scene it was confirmed that there were two people in the trailer,” Purdy said.

 Firefighters from the Pope and Bynum volunteer departments joined Courtland to fight the fire, Purdy said. They were joined by sheriff’s deputies and Bryant from the EMA.

“Any time there’s a fire with a death, our office has to report it,” Panola EMA Director Daniel Cole said.

American Red Cross volunteer Tim Robertson was also at the scene. His agency provided hotel lodging for the two survivors, ARC spokesperson Jennifer Coleman said.

“The main thing is smoke detectors in the residence,” Purdy said. The Courtland fire chief said smoke detectors were in the trailer. “They were operated by batteries. We don’t know whether they were working or not.”

A debriefing for firefighters was held Friday afternoon, Purdy said, “in case we have some folks that are having a hard time dealing with it.”