Schenectady County

Victims of Bethlehem fire identified

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a fire early this morning at a home at 775
Investigators from the Albany County District Attorney’s office, the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Bethlehem Police Department look for the cause of a house fire early Friday at 775 River Road in the town of Bethlehem that kill
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Investigators from the Albany County District Attorney’s office, the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Bethlehem Police Department look for the cause of a house fire early Friday at 775 River Road in the town of Bethlehem that kill

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a fire early this morning at a home at 775 River Road that left two people dead.

Autopsies determined Robert A. Newberry, 61, died of severe burns and Susan Newberry, 60, died as a result of smoke inhalation, according to town police Lt. Thomas Heffernan Jr.

Heffernan said neighbors and passers-by first reported the fire around 2 a.m. The first police officers on the scene tried to enter the house, Heffernan said, but were turned away by the intensity of the blaze. Selkirk firefighters also tried to get into the house when they arrived, Heffernan said, but were only able to get a few feet in before they were also turned away by the heat.

“At the initial call, it was fully involved. The heavy flame involvement was in the center of the house,” said Selkirk Fire Chief William Borger.

Heffernan said it was difficult to determine how long the fire had been burning before police and firefighters arrived. It took firefighters from Selkirk and Coeymans about two hours to control the fire, at which point, Heffernan said, investigators were able to enter the house and found the two bodies.

Heffernan said autopsies on both victims are being done this afternoon at Albany Medical Center and identities should be available later today.

The fire caused extensive structural damage to the house. When firefighters were finally able to get into the house, they discovered part of the floor had collapsed into the basement, which made it difficult to battle the blaze.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, but it does not appear to be suspicious. It appears the fire started in the front of the one-story house, in a family room where one of the residents slept due to a medical condition.

Borger said several explosions were reported and fire investigators found oxygen bottles on the front lawn when they arrived. Heffernan said oxygen tanks were being used in the house for medical reasons.

“According to some witnesses, they did hear some explosions. There were oxygen tanks in the house, we believe that’s what the explosions were,” said Heffernan.

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