WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – A man was killed Saturday night in an apartment fire at 2114 Burnett Blvd. According to Battalion Chief David Hines, a spokesman from the Wilmington Fire Department, the victim was 62 year-old John Franklin Sutton.
Crews arrived around 7:30 p.m. and had the fire under control within 15 minutes. Sutton lived in the downstairs unit of the apartment. All those living in the upstairs unit escaped unharmed.
“I just kept on saying 'John, John please follow my voice,' and he wasn't able to do it,” said Brinda King, who lived above Sutton.
King says she could hear John coughing from downstairs and tried desperately to get to him but says she knew he was gone when the coughing stopped.
“I wanted so much to save him,” she said.
Investigators believe the fire was started by an improperly discarded cigarette.
“He had probably been smoking and the smoking material had gotten into the sofa or something and was smoldering for a while,” said Hines.
Family members say he was an alcoholic and had problems for years. Hines was a family friend of Sutton and says he was a good man.
“Johnny had problems and issues, but at the same time when you're talking about family, there was a lot of unconditional love there with his brothers and sisters,” he said. “He also had a son and a daughter. All of those folks are I'm sure going to miss him.”
The structure was estimated to be a total loss, with damages estimated at $100,000.