Oak Harbor woman dies in ‘suspicious’ nighttime fire
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
November 26, 2010 · 10:36 AM
A house fire that occurred late Monday evening has left an Oak Harbor woman dead and investigators searching for answers.
A Harborview Medical Center official confirmed that 42-year-old Dawn Campbell died Tuesday evening after being airlifted from Coupeville to the Seattle facility early that morning. She had been in intensive care with her condition described as “critical.”
At the same time, Island County Sheriff’s Office detectives are suspicious about how the fire got started and have opened an official investigation to discover the cause. They began sifting through the charred remains of the home Tuesday after obtaining a search warrant from a Superior Court judge.
Detective Ed Wallace said it’s too soon to know whether a criminal investigation will follow, but if one does ensue the search warrant will ensure that any evidence collected will still be admissible in court.
According to North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Marv Koorn, firefighters responded to a call at 9:55 p.m. about a house fire on Scenic Heights Road. They arrived to find the single-story home’s kitchen, living and dining rooms engulfed in flames and Campbell’s 14-year-old son standing on the side of the road.
Koorn said “conflicting reports” led to some confusion as to the whereabouts of the boy’s mother. While they initially believed she was not in the home, that turned out not to be the case.
“A few minutes later we found out his mother was still in the house,” Koorn said.
He estimated that 10 minutes had passed before they learned that Campbell was still inside. A team of four firefighters entered the burning home and located the woman inside a bedroom. She was not breathing and was immediately brought outside where paramedics began efforts to resuscitate her.
Gordon Keyes, a Scenic Heights resident, witnessed the terrifying events unfold. He could see the flames from his house, which he said reached about 10 feet above the roof, and rushed down to see if he could help. He is a bishop at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and knew Campbell to belong to his congregation.
“They got her breathing again in the ambulance,” he said.
However, Keyes said he visited Campbell at the hospital at about 1 a.m. and that she had not regained consciousness. He could not say whether her condition had changed before she was airlifted to Harborview at about 5:30 a.m.
The Campbell’s dog and cat did not escape the blaze. Their remains were recovered from the building and, as of Tuesday afternoon, remained beside the roadway covered by a white sheet.
According to Koorn, it’s not yet clear what started the fire. While the house does have a fireplace and the blaze appears to have started in the living room, he said it was unlikely that it was the cause.
“I couldn’t tell you but I would say it’s suspicious,” Koorn said.
Island County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Mike Beech confirmed that a third person, a teenage girl, was in the house when the fire began. He declined to release further details at this time but did say that a criminal investigation would depend entirely on the cause of the fire.
Keyes said Campbell’s husband, who was on deployment in Afghanistan, was contacted by the American Red Cross officials and is now home. The church is attempting to set them up with some bare essentials, as the fire destroyed just about everything in the house, but they will invariably need additional financial assistance, he said.
“We’re working on a place to live and getting them food but anything from the community would help,” Keyes said.
Donations can be made to the Campbell Family Relief Fund, a special account created at Whidbey Island Bank.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.