Family members say deadly house fire not accident

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News 12 at 11 o'clock, July 15, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Questions swirl after a fire claimed a life in south Augusta.

The deputy coroner says 36-year-old Willie Tumblin was pronounced dead just before 6 o'clock yesterday morning.

Family members say they have reason to believe it may not have been an accident.

"It's a hard pill to swallow," said Kathi Coleman, Willie Tumblin's cousin. She still can't believe what happened.

"We were right up the street, and I got a call saying my auntie's trailer was on fire."

At about 4:30 yesterday morning, a fire broke out at a trailer off Jack Kelly Road.

"We thought he was walking up and down the street, or maybe he caused the fire by accident and was hiding out, but we come to find out he was in the house," Coleman said.

The deputy coroner says Tumblin was pronounced dead a little more than an hour after the 9-1-1 call came in. He died of heavy soot and smoke inhalation.

"It's a small trailer," Coleman said. "To think he couldn't smell something burning before it got that big? Something's not right."

Fire investigators say they believe the fire may have started in the living room, where Tumblin often slept, and all signs appear to show the fire was accidental.

But Coleman still has doubts.

"He was found between his bed and dresser, but he could've easily come out this window," she said, pointing.

Coleman says 24 hours after the fire ravaged the home, two people told her they heard someone threatening to burn her cousin's home down a day before the fire.

"If he didn't pay the money--and it was my understanding it was $25, anyone could have gave him that, but I guess it happened the way they said it would. But we want to get to the bottom of it," Coleman said.

Tumblin's mother also lived at the home, but family members tell us she was staying with another relative when the fire occurred.

Richmond County fire investigators say at the time of the fire no one had come forward with the information Coleman is alleging, but they will continue to look into it.

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