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Several people try to save man from deadly fire

By Jason Overholt, Digital Content Manager
Published On: Feb 12 2014 06:18:02 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 12 2014 06:22:08 PM CST

The cause of a mobile home fire in Berrien County that took the life of a 73-year-old man is under investigation. WSBT's James Fillmore has the latest from the scene of the blaze.

BENTON CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. -

73-year-old Robert James Senior died after his mobile home caught fire in Benton Township early Wednesday morning.

It happened before 1 a.m. at Orchard View Estates which is in the 1200 block of East Empire Avenue.

Investigators think this fire started in the front living area.

They found his body in the back bedroom.

A lieutenant with the Benton Township Fire Department says they believe James died from smoke inhalation.

Several people tried to help get him out but the fire and smoke were just too much.

Donna Woodward lives one street over from where the deadly fire happened and she says, " “I just couldn't handle it. I lost it. I started crying. I'm like I just want out of the trailer park because these things go up fast."

When her family saw the fire she called 911 and her fiancé Clarence was one of the people who ran to try and get Robert James Senior out of the burning trailer.

She says, “He tried everything in his power. He had a grasp on him but he said that he was just too stiff. They couldn’t pull him out of the window.”

Steven Hampton also lives in the mobile home park.

He knew the victim well.

Hampton says he’s going to miss him.

He says, “He was a pretty good, old guy. I helped him do anything. He always came around to my house wanting me to do this for him. Work on his vehicle and take him to the store and everything.”

Hampton ran to the scene as soon as he realized there was a fire.

He wanted to help but the scene had already been roped off and he was told it was too late.

Hampton is friends with a couple of the people who were able to try and help.

He says, “One guy told me he heard him in the back bedroom. He went to break out the window but he said every window he broke out the fire just rushed out.”

It took firefighters about 45 minutes to put out the flames.

At least two of the people who tried to save the victim went to the hospital to be checked out for smoke inhalation and other injuries.

The official cause is under investigation.

A dog was brought in to smell for accelerants, which is standard procedure in a deadly fire.

A lieutenant with the Benton Township Fire Department says they do not believe this was arson.