CLEVELAND (May 27, 2003) — The owner of a welding and automotive service shop was killed May 22 when his Cleveland shop caught fire, authorities said.
While officials would not confirm the man's name, local media identified the owner of Mr. Lee's Welding as Lee Easterling, 81, of Cleveland. A tire shop adjoined the automotive service shop, but Lt. Clayton Cunningham of the Cleveland Fire Department said he did not believe the two businesses had similar ownership. Lt. Cunningham said the tire shop, which he could not immediately identify, sustained at least some damage.
“If by nothing more, (it was damaged by) the water that was being used to extinguish the initial fire,” he said.
The first units were dispatched at 10:38 a.m., and the fire was under control roughly an hour later.
Lt. Cunningham said firefighters found the victim between a sport-utility vehicle, which was parked in one of the bay doors, and the workshop area. He said investigative teams on the scene were trying to determine if the SUV blocked the victim's escape route.
Investigators also are working to pinpoint a cause, though signs point to an accident instead of a suspicious nature, he said.
“Initially, what we're looking at is definitely some kind of open flame,” Lt. Cunningham said.