UPDATE: Johnson Co. Coroner tries to pull stepdaughter from burning home

By Hillary Thornton, Eric Eckstrom | 


Coroners might be used to seeing difficult scenes, but for one Eastern Kentucky coroner a Sunday night fire was more difficult than the rest. Johnson County Coroner, J.R. Frisby, was faced with any parents nightmare...trying to save his stepdaughter's life.

Sunday evening a neighbor alerted Frisby about a fire nearby on Little Mudlick Road, he quickly learned it was the home of his stepdaughter

Frisby says, "We just live about a minute or 45 seconds from the house. We jumped in the truck and ran down there and the house was in flames."

When Frisby and his wife got to the home 54-year-old, Brenda Ward, was still inside.

"I attempted to get in the house four or five different times, laid on my stomach and tried to crawl in...there was a lot of fire on the floor."

Frisby says he knew his stepdaughter was probably on the couch so he broke out the window above the couch in an attempt to save her.

"I thought I could get in there and pull her out, but i just could not get in. So, we had no other way of getting in the house," he explains.

All Frisby, his wife, and some neighbors could do was watch as firefighters pulled their daughter from the burning home.

Brian Jeffiers, with W.R. Castle Fire and Rescue says, "We were able to get in a back door, then get on in and retrieve the victim."

Then the coroner had to do something he says he never imagined he would do, pronounce his stepdaughter dead from smoke inhalation.

"I've been doing this a long time and I do not know the words to use to explain how different it is when it is your own family. It is totally different...and it is so much harder," says Frisby.

While this fire remains under investigation, Frisby says they believe it started from a cigarette.

Funeral arrangements have not been set.


An investigation is underway following a deadly house fire Saturday night in Johnson County. It happened around 7:00P.M. at a home on Little Mud Lick Road in the community of Staffordsville.
Firefighters tell us the house was fully engulfed when they got to the scene. We are told they found 54-year-old Brenda Ward inside.

“When the first truck arrived, we attempted to make entry, and were able to open a back door, and then were able to get on inside and retrieve the victim,” says Brian Jeffiers, of W.R. Castle Fire and Rescue.

Ward was taken to Paul B. Hall Hospital in Paintsville, where she was pronounced dead. No word on the cause of the fire and officials with Kentucky State Police declined to comment.


Original Story:

One woman is dead following a house fire Sunday evening in the Staffordsville community of Johnson County.

Fire officials say the fire broke out on Little Mud Lick Road, and it was well underway when they arrived on the scene around 7P.M.

54-year-old Brenda Ward was taken to Paul B. Hall Hospital in Paintsville where she was pronounced dead.

The Johnson County Coroner and State Police are investigating and declined comment Saturday evening.

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