Fast-moving house fire kills Bennington man

Posted at: 04/21/2013 12:25 AM
Updated at: 04/21/2013 10:58 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

BENNINGTON -- A Special Olympian known for his cheerful nature and winning smile died Saturday when a kitchen fire spread through the house he shared with his parents, authorities said.

Scott "Scotty" Moffitt, 36, who was living with cerebral palsy, could not escape the flames that consumed his house at 114 Lincoln St. just before 11:00 a.m., authorities and relatives said. The firefighters who attempted to rescue him were driven back by the intensity of the fire.

"The heat was so overwhelming that my people had to back out to where we could put some more water on the fire to get it cooled down enough where we could make entry," Bennington Volunteer Fire Chief Steve Crawford said. "There was no possible survival at that point."

Both of Moffitt's parents escaped the fire. His mother, Patricia, ran out through the front door with burns on her face, shoulders, and back, relatives said. She was flown to a hospital in Boston. Her prognosis was good.

Moffitt's father, Larry Moffitt Sr., jumped from a second-floor window to escape the flames, authorities said. He was treated for a broken bone in one foot, and returned to the scene later wearing a brace.

Firefighters found Scotty Moffitt's body on the first floor, authorities said. His cause of death was undetermined.

"Everybody loved him," Scotty's cousin, Julie Ellis, told NewsChannel 13. "No matter where you went, somebody knew Scotty. He was very involved in the Special Olympics and just recently competed in the Winter Games in the snow-shoeing division. He brought home a medal."

Michelle Sylvester, who competed alongside Scotty in basketball and swimming, visited the burned out house late Saturday to mourn her fellow Special Olympian. They had known each other for more than 20 years, she said.

"He loved to socialize with people," Sylvester said. "He loved to have people around him."

In addition to the Special Olympics, Scotty was actively involved in many other activities and events. He had just competed in "Bowl for Kids' Sake" two weeks ago, helping to raise money for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Next-door neighbors Barbara and Neil Tremblay, whose 50th wedding anniversary was overshadowed by the fatal fire, described Scotty as "a really nice boy" who loved to talk about bowling and anything else that came to mind.

"When he came to our house, he would knock and walk right in," Barbara Tremblay said. "He wouldn't wait until you opened the door. He would walk right in. He was a good kid."

Tremblay called 911 when she spotted the "wicked" flames leaping from the Moffitts' roof at 10:47 a.m., she said. Bennington volunteer firefighters -- whose station is located just down the block -- arrived within two minutes. Joined by volunteers from several neighboring departments, they spent about one hour extinguishing the flames.

Two pet dogs also died in the fire, authorities said. A cat was still missing. Neighbors were encouraged to watch for a white cat, since the animal was known to spend time outdoors.

The exact cause of the fire remained under investigation early Sunday, according to a press release from the Vermont State Police. The fire is not considered to be suspicious.

While the investigation continued, Scotty Moffitt's loved ones were coming to grips with his death.

"He's going to be missed by many, that's for sure," Ellis, his cousin, said. "Whether he knew you for five minutes or five years, if you were a friend to him, you were a friend for life."