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Body Found During Fire in Plymouth

PLYMOUTH -- The coroner has recovered a body after a fire in Luzerne County.  The victim's name was released just before noon.  He is William Paterson, 24, of Plymouth.  The coroner's office says cause and manner of death will be decided after the investigation into the fire is complete.

Crews were called to the apartment building on Powell Street in Plymouth just before 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

Officials say the fire started on the second floor of the building.

Officers say Paterson lived just a few blocks away from the vacant home.

According to authorities, Paterson was drunk on Monday night with a pack of cigarettes in hand. Later, they found his body on the third floor of the home.

Plymouth police tell Newswatch 16 that they dealt with Paterson twice Monday night over intoxication issues. Each time he was released to his parents' house just a few blocks away. But when they called a third time, they told officers that he had left the home and had taken a pack of cigarettes with him. About two and a half hours later, that home was up in flames and Paterson was found dead inside.

J.R. Zabiegalski lives next door. Firefighters knocked on his door to warn him of the danger.

"The right side of the house had all smoke coming from the windows. The left side, closest to me, unfortunately, you could see the fire coming out of the windows, so I was just wondering how fast it would spread."

Firefighters believed the place to be empty, but it's standard procedure to search anyway. That's when they found a man's body on the third floor at the top of the stairs.

"Once they found the victim, got him out, and then it took off on us from there because we were more worried about getting the guy out than fighting the fire," explained Plymouth Assistant Fire Chief Rob Panchanis.

While the home was destroyed, firefighters were successful in keeping the flames from spreading to Zabiegalski's home next door.

According to the man who lives on the other side, the place has been vacant for a long time, 10 years, maybe more but there was a recent sign of activity here. Maybe a week ago, somebody started cleaning the place out. There is a dumpster filled with debris out back.

But the home didn't have utilities, and the assistant fire chief tells Newswatch 16 the man killed in the fire was not a resident.

Even though the place was empty for years, it was never a nuisance.

"There always people walking through here. I didn't every see anybody staying. It's been empty. I didn't really pay any attention to it," said Zabiegalski.

Zabiegalski adds any time he looked, the place was padlocked.

No firefighters were hurt.

A state police fire marshal believes the fire started accidentally but the cause is unknown.

A previous version of this story indicated the body was found on the porch of the building; that was incorrect.

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