Fire claims the life of Lakeland man

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Patricia Letchworth was sleeping when a fire broke out in a home across the street on Green Road in Lakeland. 

Her husband noticed smoke and flames.

“He woke me up and he said, ‘there is a fire across the street,'” said Letchworth, who has lived in her home for 40 years and knows the family across the street well.

Her husband didn’t have good news.

“He said, ‘I asked Carolyn if everybody got out’ and she said, ‘everybody but her dad.’ Her dad didn’t make it,” said Letchworth.

Edward McLaughlin, 78, died in the fire.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says McLaughlin’s wife spoke to him as the fire was starting.
“His wife who was 70, woke up him up and they all got up and ran because of the fire and he said, ‘let me get a shirt on, I’ll be right there’ and he never came out of the house,” said Judd.

Emma McLaughlin, 70, survived the fire along with her daughter, Carolyn Whittle, 39.

Dailyn Whittle, 14, also survived as did Ivy Pearson, two, as well as Tyler McLaughlin, 22, and Marlana Bargarus, 20.

Sheriff Judd says it’s not clear if McLaughlin was overcome by smoke or flames, but it’s clear a few moments mattered.

“Seconds count, because you’re dealing with toxic fumes in addition to heat and fire, and any one of those can be deadly and they can be deadly very quickly,” said Judd.

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