When the Phillips opened the door to let their cat out Wednesday night, the Three Island Pond Road, Paradise, couple smelled smoke and discovered flames across the street.
“There are lots of woods around, so we couldn’t see what was burning,” said Laura Phillips, who lives across the street from the property where a car went ablaze with someone inside.
They immediately called 911 and Phillips said her husband, Dale, went across the street.
At first they didn’t know what was on fire, fearing their neighbour’s house was ablaze, but instead he found the car in flames in the neighbour’s driveway.
She said even if the fire department got there sooner, it couldn’t have helped — the car was fully engulfed when the couple noticed the trouble and until fire and police got there, they couldn’t even tell there was someone inside.
Police announced Thursday an 83-year-old woman died in the car.
“He couldn’t see inside. He couldn’t get near it,” Phillips said. “It’s surreal.”
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) major crime unit investigated the sudden death and said Thursday foul play has been ruled out.
About 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, RNC patrol officers responded to a call of a vehicle fire on Three Island Pond Road. The St. John’s Regional Fire Department was also on scene. Once it was determined that there was a body in the vehicle, the RNC criminal investigation division, arson section, forensic identification section and accident investigation also attended to the scene.
Police said the deceased’s family has been has been notified, but was unable to say Thursday what the cause of the fire was.
The neighbourhood is mostly one-acre lots, so there are a lot of trees around, obscuring views.
“That’s the haunting part of it — to say ‘Gosh, what if?’” Phillips said of wondering what might have been the outcome had they or someone noticed the fire earlier.
Once the couple smelled smoke, and located the source, they heard the tires popping and all the sounds that go with a burning vehicle, Phillips said, adding a car blaze can escalate quickly once the fire starts.
“The neighbours are all quite shocked,” she said.
Debbie Driscoll lives on the same road, further away, but heard the noises and saw the flames from her property. But she said she didn’t hear there was a body in the car until listening to the news Thursday morning.
“Obviously it was a shock,” Driscoll said.