Death in an apartment fire ruled accidental by investigators


When 36-year-old Sarah Kelly Nuss spoke on the phone with her father, it was Sunday at 4:00 p.m., and it would be the last time she would speak to him while he was alive.  Historic City News learned that on the morning of Monday, September 3rd, Sarah could not reach him on the phone, so, she responded to his apartment to check on him.

When Nuss arrived, she saw smoke damage to the usually unlocked front door of her father’s apartment, located at 203 S Ponce de Leon Boulevard, so she made entry immediately.  She told police that she ran into the apartment and discovered the body of her father, identified as 67-year-old Steven Jeffrey Shook, and then called 911.  Nuss stated that her father’s oxygen machine was beeping, and she kicked it until it quit.

Emergency medical, fire and law enforcement responded to the scene and found an ashtray, a pack of cigarettes, and a cigarette lighter directly in front of the victim.  None of the investigators discovered anything suspicious.  It was determined that while Shook was using his oxygen support equipment, he attempted to smoke a cigarette, causing a fire that erupted around him.

St Augustine Police

Nuss told investigators that her father was on oxygen therapy and lived alone under Hospice Care.  Liquid hydrocodone was recovered from the scene and placed into evidence.

The remainder of the efficiency apartment, the bed, kitchen and chair were all located in one room.  There was a separate bathroom.  All areas showed heavy smoke damage but did not appear to have caught fire.

Upon further investigation by the State Fire Investigator, the State Fire Marshal and the Medical Examiner Investigator, it was determined that the manner of death was accidental, and the cause of death was smoking with an oxygen delivery device in use.

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