The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

November 15, 2013

Second downtown fire victim identified

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

City of Palestine officials released the name of the second victim who died in an early morning fire that occurred at 119 E. Oak St. on Sept. 28.

According to a press release from the city, the victim's identity was confirmed through DNA testing as 43-year-old Aaron Wayne Pence of Palestine.

“We hate to experience a tragic loss of life, but we are relieved to be able to provide a positive identification to Mr. Pence’s family,” Palestine City Manager Wendy Ellis stated. “We hope it helps bring them some closure in dealing with their loss.”

The City of Palestine and other agencies continue with their investigation regarding the reason for the fire.

“The building debris removal has been completed, and investigations efforts are continuing,” the release stated.

Just after midnight on Sept. 28, Palestine Police dispatch received a report of a structure fire at 119 E. Oak St. Palestine Fire Department responded with three engines and a command vehicle.

Upon arrival at the scene, heavy fire conditions in the rear of the building and heavy smoke throughout the structure were encountered.

Within minutes of being on scene, the structure suffered the first of multiple collapses making it impossible for firefighters to enter the building.

At the time of the fire, there were unconfirmed reports of the possibility of individuals being inside the building, which housed a thrift store on the bottom floor, with upper floors being renovated for use as apartments.

Once the fire was extinguished, a search mission immediately commenced, with Texas Department of Criminal Justice personnel assisting in the efforts by bringing in canine units to search the area,

Remains of the deceased were found at about 4 p.m. that day.

The building is currently owned by Jason Dorsett. According to his mother, Cyndi Dorsett, who was at the scene of the fire, he did have insurance on the building and had finished renovations to put in lofts on one of the upper floors.

However, at the time of the fire, only the bottom floor was authorized to be used for the thrift store, as the upper floors were not ready to be occupied.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com