Johnson County coroner attempted to rescue stepdaughter from fire that killed her

jwarren@herald-leader.comMay 5, 2014 

Johnson County Coroner J.R. Frisby tried to rescue his stepdaughter from her burning home Sunday night, but he couldn't get inside.

Brenda Kay Ward, 54, was found dead inside the burned house after the fire, which broke out about 6:30 p.m. Sunday at her home at Staffordsville in Johnson County.

Frisby, who lives nearby, rushed to the scene after learning about the blaze.

"My sister-in-law ran into our house saying that Brenda's house was on fire," he said. "It was already engulfed in flames.

"I tried to get into the house numerous times, and I just couldn't do it because of the smoke and heat."

The cause of death will be listed as smoke inhalation, Frisby said.

No one else was in the house at the time, he said.

In his long career as a county coroner, Frisby never had to deal with a case involving someone in his own family. Until now.

"It's a different kind of situation; very personal," Frisby said.

Frisby said authorities think the fire might have started from a burning cigarette.

"That's what we believe," he said. "She was a heavy smoker."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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