October 13, 2010 in City

Body found in burning house near Hangman

Investigators say blaze likely accidental
By The Spokesman-Review
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Firefighters found a body Tuesday morning while fighting a fire in a home near Hangman Valley Golf Course south of Spokane.

Crews were called to the scene by a neighbor who saw smoke coming from the home at 12036 S. Player Drive, said Spokane County Fire District No. 8 Deputy Fire Chief Lonnie Rash.

Officials have not identified the body but say they believe him to be the man who lived at the address.

Positive identification is expected today during an autopsy. County property records say the home is owned by Shawn Lerner, but neighbors said a different man, Bill Hanel, resided there for many years.

Rick Hamill, a friend of Hanel’s, said Hanel graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in the 1970s and had worked as a transmission repairman. His father, L. Warden Hanel, was a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Spokane.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“I have nothing to indicate that it was anything but accidental,” Rash said Tuesday morning.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan said detectives were on scene to investigate the death but couldn’t enter the house until they obtained a search warrant because the fire was out and they didn’t have permission to be inside. The warrant was obtained about 3:30 p.m. The body was expected to be removed from the home Tuesday evening.

Rash said the fire appeared to have started in the kitchen – where the body was found – and spread to the finished basement.

Firefighters from a station at 61st Avenue and the Palouse Highway arrived seven minutes after the call was received, Rash said.

One crew put out the fire. Another searched the house and found the body, Rash said.

Rash said no working smoke detectors were found in the home.

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