The shell of a burned-out motorhome trailer sits to the rear of a property in the 1700 block of East Thiesen Road north of Holtville on Saturday morning, May 15. Firefighters discovered the body of a man burned beyond recognition inside the fully engulfed trailer on Friday evening, May 14. The man has yet to be identified by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO
HOLTVILLE — A man who witnesses said “was acting erratically throughout the day” in the hours before his eventual death was found burned beyond recognition in a trailer on property behind a home on East Thiesen Road north of Holtville on Friday, May 14.
It wasn’t clear whether law enforcement officials know the identity of the man who was believed to have succumbed in the mobile home fire, but his identification was pending notification of next of kin.
“The decedent suffered significant burns to his body. At this (point) an identity of the decedent has not been determined. No signs of foul play were detected, and an autopsy has not been scheduled,” Imperial County Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Benavidez stated in a text message on Saturday, May 15.
“ICSO will make attempts to body and notify next of kin before released any info on the identity,” Benavidez continued.
An autopsy was expected to be scheduled around midweek, said Imperial County sheriff’s Lt. Manuel Deleon, who leads the coroner’s and investigations units.
Many details on the case are sketchy at this point, but Imperial County coroner investigators were called to the scene of a trailer fire in the 1700 block of East Thiesen Road around 6:45 p.m., Deleon said.
Both coroner’s investigators and case investigators were brought in and witnesses in the vicinity were interviewed, Deleon indicated. That’s when he said someone reported that the man found in the trailer had been acting strangely earlier in the day.
The man was thought to be in his 50s, according to Holtville Fire Alex Silva, who deferred comment on Friday night to sheriff’s officials.
Holtville Fire Department crews were called out to the trailer fire around 6:15 p.m. Friday, Silva said during an interview on Saturday morning. Crews arrived to find the trailer fully engulfed in flames, the site of which was accessible only from a dirt access road behind a main house facing Thiesen.
Within minutes of arriving, witnesses told fire crews that a man lived in the trailer but that no one had seen him in a while, so Silva said firefighters tried to battle the fire enough to make entry into the trailer to look for an occupant.
The decedent was located already burned beyond recognition at that point, Silva said, so all crews could do was try to put out the fire all around the remains to preserve the scene for investigators.
Benavidez said the body was found in the bedroom area of the trailer.
Silva said the arson task force was called in and the coroner’s office was also contacted. Silva explained arson was not suspected per se, but that the task force was alerted due to a person dying in the fire.
Early in the firefighting efforts, Silva said water tenders from El Centro and Imperial County fire departments were requested to assist due to a lack of a water source.
Lt. Deleon expected more information would become available on Monday, May 17.
Check back for new details and photos from the scene. The story is still developing.