At 3:54 a.m. Friday (March 20), Virginia State Police responded to a residential fire on Deer Hill Lane in Staunton. The Staunton Fire Department arrived on scene within minutes and rescued Ralph W. Whetzel Jr., 66, from the burning residence. Whetzel was transported to Augusta Health and then on to UVA Medical Center, where he died later Fridaymorning.
A second body was recovered from the residence and transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner for examination, autopsy and positive identification.
State Police Special Agent B.N. Webster’s investigation of the fire determined it originated in the house’s chimney and has ruled it as accidental. Both the Staunton Fire Department and Swoope Volunteer Fire Department assisted state police at the scene.