The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 17, 2014

Neighbors tried to save victim

Elderly man dies in city house fire

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — As flames and thick smoke poured out of a Sharon house Tuesday evening, neighbors rallied to try and save the man who lived there alone.

Despite their efforts, Robert A. Carson, 84, of 1188 Griswold Ave., Sharon, died in the fire.

Terry Whalen, Sharon fire chief, said Carson was found in the back bedroom on the main floor where the fire started.

“It’s a sad time for the family,” Whalen said, noting that Carson’s children lost their mother about a year and a half ago on Thanksgiving.

Whalen said the fire was ruled accidental with the manner undetermined, pending further investigation by Trooper Luke G. Nelson, state police deputy fire marshal. He added that the house is insured.

Shortly after 9 p.m. several neighbors called Mercer County 911 to report smoke and flames coming out of the house and windows cracking.

Rick Rueberger, 49, of White Avenue, attempted to enter the home to save Carson. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of Sharon Regional Health System and treated for smoke inhalation, Whalen said.

“Bob would’ve done the same for me,” Rueberger said. “He was a good man and good neighbor.”

Rueberger said he was released from the hospital and made it home about three hours later.

The Rueberger house is situated behind Carson’s house. Rueberger said he and Carson were good friends.

“His wife was the first person to come visit when we first moved in,” Rueberger said. “She brought us dinner.”

Rueberger said Carson’s daughter brought her father home earlier in the day Tuesday after a long-term hospital stay, tucked him into bed and planned on returning to spend the night with her father.

Rueberger said he happened to look out his window toward Carson’s house and saw the back room on fire.

He told his wife to call 911 as he ran out and started pounding on Carson’s front door, using a bench on the front porch as a battering ram. He said Carson spent a lot of time in the back bedroom, but he hoped he made it to the side door or close to the front door.

“The whole time I was thinking he was going to be so mad at me for what I was doing to his door,” Rueberger said.

When he couldn’t get the door open, he broke a window with his shoe, and entered the house.

“By that time the smoke was so bad I just couldn’t. ... I just feel so bad.” Rueberger said.

Scores of neighbors lined the streets and watched as emergency personnel worked, hoping for good news.

Rueberger said Carson’s next-door neighbor, Jim Anderson, managed to break down the door, and a Sharon school teacher, Susan Taylor, was ready to jump into the fire also.

“Such good, good people, all the neighbors,” Rueberger said.

Carson was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. by Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III. The cause and manner of death will be determined pending an autopsy.

Farrell firefighters assisted.