Woman Dies After Car Catches Fire in Creek

State police ruled the death of a 71-year-old woman found in a burning car in a southeastern Pennsylvania creek accidental.

The Berks County coroner investigated the incident in Toad Creek in Topton that left Kathryn Ercolino of Quakertown dead.

Reading Trooper David Beohm said that firefighters initially believed they were responding to a brush fire around 5:15 a.m. Sunday, when they instead found the car burning in Toad Creek near the borough's swimming pool.

The car was pulled from the creek shortly after 1 p.m.

Initially authorities didn't identify the driver nor did they say how the car caught fire. The on  Monday night, police identified Ercolino and the strange set of circumstances that led to her death.

The county coroner ruled that Ercolino died from burns and smoke inhalation.

Police say that Ercolino got lost and made a wrong turn into Toad Creek. She then tried to restart the engine -- as reported by nearby residents -- which "caused the catalytic converter to heat up thus starting the fire," according to the initial police investigation.

Topton is a tiny borough about 10 miles northeast of Reading.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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