December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Dirty work clothes helped ignite man who died of burns

ELYRIA — A flammable lacquer on an Elyria man’s clothing helped flames overtake his body, which ultimately led to his death, Elyria Assistant fire Chief Robert Dempsey has said.

Donald Secrist, 50, died from internal burns Sunday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller said.

Secrist, who polished cabinets for Patriot Surplus in Elyria, had gotten off work about noon Saturday and went straight to his friend’s house at 227 Wolf Court to watch the Indians game. Secrist and his friend had been drinking alcoholic beverages when they decided to leave the home and sit inside the friend’s car, which was parked in the driveway, to listen to music, Dempsey said.

While there, they lit a candle inside the car, but when the friend decided to leave and go back into his house to lie down, he blew the candle out. Moments later, Secrist attempted to reignite the candle, which caused the fire.

“He hadn’t changed his clothing in the last couple of days, so after several days of buildup, that lacquer had impregnated his clothing,” Dempsey said. “That’s what caused the extremely rapid fire spreading all over his clothing.”

Secrist had already suffered burns over 80 to 90 percent of his body by the time a neighbor ran outside and doused him with a fire extinguisher. Firefighters poured a saline solution over Secrist before he was flown to MetroHealth.

His sister, Diane Smith, said Secrist was a wonderful man who had a sense of humor and could always make people laugh.

“He was always clowning around,” she said. “He liked to joke around and he liked hanging out with his friends.”

Secrist was born and raised in Elyria and spent a few years with the Army National Guard, according to his mother, Anna Carr. He leaves behind an 18-year-old daughter, who Carr said was having a tough time with her father’s death.

“They were close and she isn’t doing well,” Carr said. “She misses him a lot.”

Secrist enjoyed fishing and sports, and he was especially thrilled with the Indians’ success in the playoffs, Smith said.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.