Dad Had Drugs in His System During Deadly Mother's Day Fire: Coroner

The father who died in Mother’s Day house blaze that also killed four of his children and his sister-in-law as his wife helplessly watched had drugs in his system, according to investigators.

Schuylkill County Coroner David Moylan told NBC10 that a toxicology report conducted on the body of Eric Brown, 31, found amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC -- a substance found in marijuana.

"He tested positive for methamphetamine which is generally a substance for abuse," Moylan told the Republican-Herald. "I would say it wasn't a lot. It wouldn't have killed him for sure." 

"It looks like he could have been smoking marijuana the day of (the fire)," Moylan added.

The fire killed Brown, his sister-in-law, Kristina Thomas, 26, and Brown's children: Elijah Brown, 2; Emily Brown, 3; Jeremiah Brown, 7; and Joy Brown, 8. Their mother, 28-year-old Kelly Brown, was at a neighbor's house doing laundry at the time.

Fire investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the May 12 blaze, which began in the kitchen. But they say it's not considered suspicious.

Code enforcement officials say they had recommended smoke detectors for the home. The Republican-Herald reports Pottsville, Pa. Fire Chief Todd March said that it appeared there weren't any smoke detectors in the home when the fire broke out.

Pottsville Public Safety Director Mark Atkinson said a deputy code administrator visited the home in December and recommended smoke detectors. March said the smoke alarms might have saved the lives of the victims.

Schuylkill County dispatcher Bill Lindenmuph told NBC10 that the fire broke out just before midnight at a single-family home on the 200 block of Pierce Street in Pottsville, Pa.

March called it the worst fire he has seen in 37 years battling blazes.

"By the time our firefighters arrived on the scene there were flames everywhere -- coming out the front -- the whole building was entirely engulfed," said March.

Firefighters later found all of the bodies on the third floor of the building, which sits on a steep hillside not far from the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery in Pennsylvania's coal country, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Kelly Brown was doing laundry at a neighbor's house nearby at the time of the blaze because her washing machine was broken, according to the neighbor, Jennifer Purcell. Purcell said they had smelled smoke, and Purcell went outside and saw the flames, telling Brown, "Oh my God, your house is on fire!"

They both ran up the street to the house, but weren't able to get inside, Purcell said.

Kelly Brown started screaming to emergency personnel keeping her back, "What do you mean I can't go in? My kids are in there, my husband is in there, my sister is in there. I've got to get them," according to Purcell. Brown got weak after that and had to be walked down the street because she couldn't stand, Purcell said.

Video shot by shows heavy flames shooting out of nearly every window of the home as firefighters try to battle back the flames.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries trying to rescue the family and put out the fire.

It took firefighters about an hour to bring the fire under control. All seven stations from the Pottsville Fire Department as well as surrounding departments were on location, Lindenmuph said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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