Driver dies when stricken vehicle catches fire

LINDEN – A person died in a vehicle fire early Friday morning in a rural part of Warren County.

The Department of Fire and Rescue Services released information Monday about the incident, noting that the investigation remains ongoing. Investigators are not classifying the incident as either suspicious or accidental, Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said by phone Monday. The department expects to release more information about the fire in the near future, Maiatico said.

Officials would not release the name of the victim until they notified the next of kin. Maiatico said they weren’t releasing the make and model of the vehicle at this time pending notification of the victim’s next of kin. Maiatico also would not provide the victim’s gender.

The Emergency Communications Center received a call shortly before 2:30 a.m. from a resident who reported a possible motor vehicle crash in the 800 block of Lucke Way in the Skyland Estates subdivision, Maiatico said. The caller reported that the vehicle was on fire. Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to find a vehicle engulfed in flames. The deputies could not approach the vehicle because of the heat and fire.

Firefighters arrived about a minute after the deputies and extinguished the blaze. The driver died from injuries sustained in the fire.

Further investigation revealed the vehicle did not crash. The vehicle appeared to have become stuck in the driveway, Maiatico said. The heat from the catalytic converter and the vehicle’s exhaust system ignited some leaves or other debris near the vehicle and started the fire, Maiatico said.

At the time that firefighters and deputies arrived only one person was in the vehicle, Maiatico said.

The fire marshal noted that the area is difficult to navigate.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner assisted with the investigation. Anyone with information about the incident can contact Maiatico at 636-3830 or Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jason Bates at 635-7100.