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FIRE VICTIM IDENTIFIED AS RETIRED PILOT

The man who died Friday night in a Black Rock house fire was identified by family members Saturday as Ronald McNeight.

The 62-year-old South Buffalo native recently had retired as a corporate pilot, said Nancy Huber of the Town of Boston, his sister-in-law.

His wife, Marlene A. McNeight, 60, who was helped by neighbors from her first-floor quarters during the blaze, was not hurt, Huber said.

"She's shaken up but not injured," Huber said.

Fire officials returned to the scene Saturday to retrieve tools and continue their investigation. They were not available for comment. Fire Division Chief Thomas Ashe said Friday that the cause of the fire did not appear to be suspicious.

McNeight's body was recovered toward the front of the second-floor rooms, where the blaze originated. He was declared dead at the scene.

Martin Huber Jr., a brother-in-law, said firefighters had told him that McNeight never got out of a chair after the fire broke out. Fire investigators are looking into whether he was smoking and fell asleep or lost consciousness for some reason, Huber said.

Marlene McNeight was sleeping on a couch on the first floor of the 2 1/2 -story home at 255 Dearborn St. when the fire started. Five neighbors, ranging in age from 14 to 20, broke down a first-floor door and led her and all her pets to safety.

Kathy Gabor, 35, a next-door neighbor roused by yelling, also went into the house.

"I was calling Marlene's name," Gabor said. "By that time, she was walking toward the door."

The McNeights had been married for at least 20 years, Nancy Huber said. Marlene McNeight grew up in the house, which is more than 100 years old. She moved back about 10 years ago with her husband.

Her mother died last August, and the McNeights had been the only ones living in the home.

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