HANCOCK, Maine — An Ellsworth man whose body was found Monday afternoon in a partially burned vehicle on Simmons Pond Road died from smoke inhalation, according to officials.
Lyle Gibson, 51, is believed to have started the fire after the vehicle became stuck in snow on the unplowed road, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, indicated Tuesday in a prepared statement.
According to McCausland, investigators believe Gibson was intoxicated and likely dropped burning matches on the floor of the vehicle, igniting papers and trash. The resulting fire burned the front seat, floor and dashboard of the Jeep Cherokee, but was out by the time a tow truck driver arrived to pull the vehicle out of the snow, McCausland said.
Gibson had been driving the vehicle and was accompanied by his wife, Nichole Gibson, who left the car and walked to a nearby house to call for a tow truck after the vehicle became stuck. While his wife was gone, Lyle Gibson continued to step on the gas pedal, spinning the tires of the vehicle and causing one of the rear tires to go flat from the heat and friction, according to McCausland.
McCausland said the entire chain of events occurred Monday in the early afternoon. The tow truck driver was the first to arrive at the scene after the vehicle had caught fire, he said.
“It was within an hour or two” between the time Nichole Gibson left to call for a tow truck and when the tow truck arrived, McCausland said.
Lyle Gibson’s body was found in the back of the Jeep, behind the back seat. The cause of death was determined Tuesday by the state medical examiner’s office, which conducted an autopsy in Augusta.
The vehicle was examined by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which had it towed Monday night to the Maine State Police crime lab in Augusta.
Simmons Pond Road is off Wyman Road, near Washington Junction.
The death has been ruled an accident and is Maine’s first fire death of 2010, according to McCausland.