A Missouri State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of a deadly fire that led to a devastating discovery for a daughter. Firefighters did not find 61-year-old Larry Pearman’s body when they battled a blaze last Thursday. Instead his daughter, Kelly Pearman, found her father the following day. On Monday, the Lawrence County Coroner said preliminary autopsy results show the death was accidental. He says investigators found no signs of foul play.
Kelly Pearman says she was devastated, confused and hurt beyond words when she found her 61-year-old father's body in the rubble. “I got word from three organizations that there was no one in the house,” Pearman said. “I searched for him in his vehicles and out buildings, hoping he had made it out but I soon realized that he was there.”
Pearman says she found his keys, lighter, and cell phone. Things he always kept in his pockets. She says she then found her father. “I called the sheriff’s office back and told them we had found him,” Pearman said. “They sent someone right away.” Pearman says four squad cars, the coroner, the state fire investigator and a pump truck from the Halltown Fire Department came back to the home. “I am hurt,” Pearman said. “Crews were on the scene for at least four hours the night of the fire and still overlooked him. I wasn't notified at all that evening.”
Neighbors say the fire that killed Pearman quickly intensified. “We heard the sirens that night,” Neighbor David Nothdurft said. “The flames went way beyond tree top.” Another neighbor saw the fire from his home. “By the time we got there it was pretty much burned down, there were quite a few explosions I don't know if there was propane bottles it sounded like ammunition going off,” neighbor Corey Hurt said.
Neighbors worried Pearman was inside. “He usually is at home because he is disabled,” Nothdurft said. He says Pearman often used a wheelchair. “Reality comes home, you know how quickly it can happen and how devastating it can be,” Nothdurft said.
The fire became more devastating for Pearman's daughter. “She said she found him in his old easy chair,” Nothdurft said. “It was certainly hard for her. It's terrible, it's just terrible they had search and rescue out here they were here until the wee, wee hours of the night looking for him.”
“It's a sad feeling, I don't mean it in a bad way, but are they not doing their job or what,” Hurt questioned. “Did they just go in and put the fire out and not look around?”
On Sunday a Halltown firefighter told KSPR News neighbors told them no one was home so they did not do a search and rescue. The firefighter says Pearman was found underneath two feet of rubble. On Monday, no one from the Halltown Volunteer Fire Department returned calls from KSPR News.
A Meals on Wheels volunteer alerted Pearman's daughter to the fire. The coroner says he is waiting on toxicology results. The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation.