PENDLETON – A Pendleton man was driving home from a midnight shift unaware that fire had destroyed his house and killed his mother.
Neighbors who came out to see what was happening gave him the bad news as he was stopped by fire and police trucks that lined Aiken Road on Wednesday morning.
“He told me he had just got out of work,” said Charlotte Fisher, who lives in the 6600 block of Aiken Road. “I was the first one to tell him his house was on fire.”
She said he was stopped at the police barrier in front of her house.
“He said, ‘What’s going on down there?’ and I told him there’s a yellow house on fire and he said, ‘What yellow house; there’s two of them?’” said Fisher. She said when she gave him a description he realized it was his house and that his mother had been home.
Fisher said she didn’t want to tell him what she already suspected. She said she had seen a covered body being removed from the house.
“I didn’t want to dare tell him because the officials were coming down to talk to him,” said Fisher. “He was in shock about the fire and then they told him about his mother.”
The victim was identified as Jean Samanka, 71.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Firefighters were called to 6598 Aiken Road at 6:52 a.m., according to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.
A passerby called 911 after seeing smoke coming from the home. Deputies arriving at the scene found heavy smoke coming from the front door and flames coming from the rear of the ranch-style home.
The fire is believed to have started in a bedroom, Sheriff James R. Voutour said.
The home has been declared a total loss.
The freshly paved road had just reopened Wednesday morning and Susie Jagow, who lives across the street from Fisher, said for several days there had been one-way traffic. She said she thought maybe there had been an accident.
“This is the first day the road had been reopened,” said Jagow. “It’s usually such a quiet and peaceful family street, kids going up and down on their bikes”
She said they would stop and wave to each other at garage sales in the neighborhoods.
“The house is usually very quiet, nothing going on,” said Jagow. “I’m still shocked.”
She added, “What a way to come home on a beautiful day like today.”
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