KINSTON - Investigators said an early-morning mobile home fire that killed an elderly man was an accident.
The fire was reported off Highway 11, on Gulick Drive in Kinston, at about 5 a.m. Monday. Three local fire departments and about 25 firefighters responded.
The victim, identified as 76-year-old Jacob Franklin Rogers, Sr. , died of smoke inhalation, said Deputy Chief Timmy Mooring of the Sandy Bottoms Fire Department. The fire was ruled accidental, caused by extension cords in the home.
Michael Watson, who lives right down the road from Rogers, said they have been friends for 40 years.
Watson said he was walking to check the mail at the end of the road, when he noticed flames coming out of the home. He said he ran back to his house to change into thicker clothes.
Watson said by the time he returned, firefighters were on the scene and wouldn't allow him to get too close.
"If I could have caught it before it happened, I'd been right there to get him," said Watson.
Family members said Rogers lived in the home most of his life. Rogers' daughter, Debbie, remembers her father as a popular man.
"He was a good man; everybody in the neighborhood liked him. He would help anybody he could and do anything for them," said Rogers.
Rogers was wheelchair-bound and lost one of his legs in an accident years ago. Debbie said her father was always in a lot of pain, and hopes he is now at a better place.
Rogers has six children and seven grandchildren. His son is a trooper with The Highway Patrol in Lenoir County.