September 16, 2019

Spinning tire cause of fatal truck fire

ELLSWORTH – A spinning tire is to blame for a truck fire that killed a local fisherman, an investigator said Monday.

The left rear tire on James Arnett’s 2002 Dodge pickup caught fire after the truck got stuck on concrete curbing in the public parking lot by the town pier, Sgt. Stewart Jacobs of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said.

Arnett’s body was found in the truck after firefighters were alerted to the blaze around 4 a.m. Saturday.

“The tire basically spun itself down into the pavement,” Jacobs said. Friction from the spinning caught the tire on fire, which then spread to the entire vehicle, he said.

“Eventually, the gas tank failed and [the gas] ran out onto the pavement,” he said.

Jacobs said that Arnett, 21, has been identified as the man found in the cab of the vehicle but that the cause of death has yet to be determined. The state Medical Examiner’s Office was waiting Monday for the results of toxicology tests before making an official finding, he said.

Jacobs declined to comment on whether Arnett may have been unconscious when the fire started. He said the toxicology tests would reveal if Arnett had any substances such as alcohol in his blood when he died.

“The question of survival, of why someone couldn’t get out, we are looking into,” he said. “Likely it will be revealed by those tests. It’s a reasonable question.”

Jacobs said it “may take a little while” for the test results to come back.

The wheel that spun into the pavement is the drive wheel on Dodge Ram pickup trucks, according to Jacobs. He said there was no evidence of any collision damage to the truck.

Arnett, a 2000 graduate of Sumner Memorial High School in nearby Sullivan, had just finished his first year of operating his own lobster fishing boat, according to local residents.

He had worked as a sternman on another lobster boat for six years in Winter Harbor before getting his own lobster fishing license and launching his own boat, the Rose E., this past year. The boat, which he took out of the water for the winter on Friday, was named after his mother, local residents have said.

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