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Fatal fire in Oklahoma's Sequoyah County is 'bizarre,' sheriff says

A retired man's burned body was found in his home. One fire investigator said the man's death appeared to be from “spontaneous combustion.”
ROBERT MEDLEY rmedley@opubco.com Published: February 19, 2013
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— Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said he is stumped by what is the strangest death in a fire he's investigated.

The torso of Danny Vanzandt, 65, was burned to ash. But his head and face were intact. The only damage in the house was on the floor underneath Vanzandt's body, and throughout the house the only damage was from smoke not flames, Lockhart said.

No fire accelerant was used, and the body appeared to have burned slowly, Lockhart said.

Another fire investigator who responded Monday to the scene between Sallisaw and Muldrow said the man appeared to have “spontaneously combusted,” Lockhart said.

“It's bizarre,” he said.

Lockhart, a former arson investigator for the Fort Smith (Ark.) Police Department, said he has never seen a case of someone spontaneously combusting, but he can't rule it out.

“I've never seen anything like this,” he said. “We've got a body with the torso incinerated.”

About 10:50 a.m. Monday a neighbor saw smoke coming from inside Vanzandt's home about four miles west of Muldrow on Bawcom Road.

Vanzandt weighed about 190 pounds, was retired and lived alone. He has no known criminal history.

He was known to drink and smoke heavily. His relatives told investigators he never drank water and rarely bathed, Lockhart said.

The body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Tulsa, where an autopsy will be performed to determine a cause and manner of death.

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