Fire marshal rules fire that killed Bonita Springs man was accidental

— A San Carlos Park house fire that killed a Bonita Springs man in June was accidental, the state fire marshal has concluded.

Joseph Waddell, 31, was staying with friends at 8362 Wren Road when the fire broke out around 6 a.m. on June 16.

The "most probable cause," according to the fire marshal's report, "is the possible careless use/discard of tobacco-related products," though friends said Waddell didn't have cigarettes on him at the time of the fire.

Waddell went out for drinks on Fort Myers Beach the night before the fire, according to the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal's investigation, and then slept at the home of friends Hunter Preston and Samantha Ewell.

Preston told investigators that as he locked the front door before heading to bed around 2:30 a.m., he saw Waddell asleep on a bean bag chair on the stilt home's rear porch.

Preston awoke at 6 a.m. to "banging noises," and emerged from the bedroom to find flames overtaking the porch and Waddell beating the fire down with a cloth, the report noted.

"Come on, let's get out of here," Preston told his friend while evacuating Ewell and their 2-year-old son.

Waddell said nothing, still attempting to fight the fire.

Preston returned to the home, charring his feet with first- and second-degree burns, to retrieve clothes and get Waddell out, he told fire investigators.

But Waddell, the father of an 11-year-old girl, who friends said lost his job as a condo maintenance worker and hoped to join his daughter and parents in his native Tennessee, never emerged.

His friends at the scene in June told the Daily News they were sure Waddell died trying to save them and their home.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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