Sifting through the ashes

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:31 AM

Arnold was sleeping in a trailer with a propane heater on when the fire started. By the time firefighters arrived, the trailer was fully engulfed in flames.

Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said the medical examiner, Dr. David Start, did the autopsy on Saturday that confirmed the cause of death. Bennett said there was “direct evidence” leading to smoke inhalation being ruled as the cause.

“It was a pretty mundane autopsy as it relates to the cause of death,” Bennett said. “It was apparent to the doctor.”

Bennett said he was hopeful to have an official finding sometime this week on what caused the fire.

“It doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious yet,” he said. “A portable heating device that was used may have been the source.”

Bennett said investigators could also run into a situation where no official cause is determined. In this case, the heater would be the most likely reason behind the fire.

According to Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer, the monetary value of the damage was less than $1,000.

While investigators continue to sift through rubble, family members are beginning to make arrangements for Arnold.

John Johnston, who would have been Arnold’s father-in-law, said arrangements are being made for a memorial service in Arnold’s hometown of Manton, which is about 15 miles north of Cadillac in Wexford County.

“I’m not sure when it’s going to be, but it’s being arranged,” Johnston said. “I don’t know if his brother is going to come down here and have one, too, or not.”

Johnston said he is trying his best to deal with the situation, and was hopeful the insurance company would pay for cleanup of the debris. He noted that looking at the site gave him bad memories and was upsetting to see.

“My stomach has been in knots for two days now, and I have been getting sick,” he said.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Silent Observer at 1-877-88-SILENT or visit www.MOSOtips.com.

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