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UPDATED: House fire claims one life while another hangs in the balance

Firemen from several Copiah County VFD’s talk with 911 Coordinator Rick Stevens about Wednesday morning’s fire on Gallatin Road west of Hazlehurst that claimed the life of Bertha Thornton and injured her husband Billy.

By Bonnie L. Jackson
News Editor
It is a family’s worst nightmare realized – a house fire on December 28 destroyed a home three miles west of Hazlehurst, claiming one life.
Bertha Thornton, of 1034 West Gallatin Street,  was killed in the fire that left her husband, William “Billy” Alvin Thornton, in the hospital in intensive care.
The cause of death has yet to be determined by the Mississippi Medical Examiner at press-time.
Ellis Stuart, Copiah County Coroner, was at the site on Thursday afternoon collecting evidence from the ashes.
“I received a telephone call at 1:45 a.m. informing me that there was a house fire with an entrapment.  When I arrived on the scene, Mr. Thornton was already in the ambulance being worked on by Dr. Randy Hankins and the paramedics,” Stuart stated.
Thornton was later transported to the hospital in Jackson.
“Once the hot spots were knocked down, they started a grid search. I would say they found her remains less than 10 minutes into the search,” Stuart said.
“Mrs. Thornton’s body was extricated from the house at 7:09 a.m.,” Coroner Stuart confirmed through a sheriff’s officer.
“Her remains were transported to the Mississippi Medical Examiner’s office in Jackson for an autopsy,” concluded Coroner Stuart.
“The fire department was unable to extricate Mrs. Thornton from the fire because of the intensity of the heat,” Coroner Stuart explained.
A deputy from the Sheriff’s Office saw the fire while out on a routine patrol.  He called for back up as he rushed to the scene.  He was able to pull Mr. Thornton from the fire.  More details of his heroism will appear next week.

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