Huntington, WV Central City Factory Fire, Dec 1911





Death, resulting from the most horrible accident that has ever come under the notice of the police or fire department, ended the suffering of James LOSEY, 50 years old, who was frightfully burned, at a fire in the Huntington Tumbler Company, Saturday night. Losey died at the Huntington Hospital, where he was taken following the fire, Sunday morning. The police, after an investigation, have decided that the affair was an accident. It was at first hinted Losey might have been coal oiled and set fire, after being robbed.

Will STEELE who rushed out of the tumbler works, just after the fire broke out, was arrested by the police judge. He will be held pending a more complete inquiry into the case.

According to Coroner VINSON there will be no inquest held, as he says the man plainly died from the result of burns. Doctor Karl PRICHARD, who attended Losey, says in his opinion the man was a victim of an accident. He found no evidence of coal oil, or foul play. Losey was a married man, and had a number of children.

The circumstances of the affairs are most startling. About 11:30 o'clock, the Central City hose company was called out by an alarm at the Huntington Tumbler works, which is just back of the hose house. Just as the fire wagon crossed a railroad switch near the scene of the fire, the firemen were horrified by the sight of a terrible object.

From behind the line of cars, in the pitch darkness of the night, sprang, with a scream of agony that made blood run cold, the form of a man, enveloped in flames. The arms of fire were swinging frantically above his head and with every leap came the ear piercing shrieks, modulating at times into a horse animal moan. "God, what is it," cried one of the fireman as the apparition of fire and flesh disappeared..

As the demon like form rushed screaming behind a box car, the fireman called to a patrolman to go after, what ever it was. The members of the fire department were able to extinguish the blaze without difficulty.

When the officer ran to the place the burning man was believed to have gone he found him lying on the ground by the side of the car. The patrolman's flashlight showed a bloody hand print on the car. Bits of flesh were stuck in the print.

The man was stark naked, with the exception of his shoes. The socks were still burning when the officer got to him. About the waste was the smoking remains of a bell. The man had stoped his superhuman cries. He held out a hand to the officer-it was nothing but blackened bones-one finger was gone. This morning the flesh and finger nails, were found stuck on a box in the building where the fire had occurred. Teh man grabbed the box as he blindly dashed from the building. The cooked flesh caught on a nail, and it was scraped from the bones.

A hasty examination by the officer showed the flesh on the back, the limbs and arms to be actually cooked--burned soft to that extent that it stuck on anything it touched. Even as he stood trembling before the officer with the smouldering remains of his underclothes beside, bits of flesh dropped to the ground about him. Blood flowed from many of the red raw blisters.

The patrol and Chief Davis, of the fire department arrived almost immediately, afterwards. The chief says when the powerful lights of his Oakland "40" flashed on the figure, he believed that the officer had captured a wild man.

Losey, as teh man proved to be, was rushed to the Huntington Hospital, wrapped in a fireman's coat. He remained in a semi-delierious condition until death relieved him.

Physicians say that he was intoxicated when the accident occurred. he knew absolutely nothing concerning the fearful events of the night.

It is Chief Davis' theory that Losey, who is a cooper at the West Virginia Brewing Company, had been drinking with Steele, the man arrested by the police. Losey, it is believed, law behind the stove, nearly dead drunk. His clothes caught fire from the hot stove. The pile of staves and shavings behind him became ablaze from his clothes. That he was horribly burned before leaving the building, is certain, for the flesh of his hand was found on the box, while considerable blood was found on the floor. The fire was nothing. A few staves were all that burned. A bucket half full of beer, and a deck of cards, were found on a box by the police. One card, the four of spades was lying upward on the floor. On the card was a drop of blood.

Losey could be traced by blood and pieces of burning clothing that fell from him as he ran. He probably covered seventy-five yards before he dropped exhausted to the ground behind the box car.

He told the authorities in a delirious moment that he had some money. Most of this was found, however, after the fire.

Huntington Advertiser, 4 DEC 1911