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UPDATE: Friends of Westmoreland fire victim say he had suffered

Friends of Ralph Elliot describe him as having the biggest heart of anybody that you can think of.

Posted: Feb 21, 2020 5:57 AM
Updated: Feb 21, 2020 6:27 PM

WESTMORELAND, N.Y. (UPDATED) -- One person has died in an early morning fire on Dix Road in Westmoreland, according to the Oneida County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office says 61-year-old Ralph Elliott died in the fire after waking the three other adults in the home, David Elliot, Sue Martin and Phillip Becktoft.

The three said they woke to heavy smoke after hearing Ralph yelling from the living room. They escaped through a window and tried to get back into the front of the house to help Ralph, but the smoke and flames drove them out.

Fire crews found him on the first floor of the home, near the front of the house.

An autopsy will be performed by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office.

The fire started just before 3 a.m. on Friday, with at least six fire agencies and several members of law enforcement responding to the scene. There weren't any fire hydrants nearby, so fire crews said getting water to the fire was difficult.

Friends of Ralph Elliot describe him as having the biggest heart of anybody that you can think of.

Randy Ferdinand, who was one of Elliot's longtime fishing and hunting buddies, says the man they called 'Duke' will be greatly missed, "He was an avid fisherman. It didn’t matter what the weather was, he was out there all the time. Hunting in the winter, fishing in the summer. You give him a Pepsi and a bag of Doritos, he was set forever you know. He’s going to be missed, he had the biggest heart of anybody that you can think of."

Ferdinand says everyone in the neighborhood is taking this loss especially hard, especially after what happened just one week to the day earlier, when two people died less than a mile away on this very same Dix Road in a two vehicle accident.

Bill Rundle, another of Elliot's friends, says he has known Elliot since they were young boys living on Dix Road, "When we were kids we all used to play, we used to go down to his house, he would come up to ours."

Ferdinand and Rundle say Elliot suffered a stroke about a year and a half ago and say was paralyzed on the left side of his body.

Rundle says these two tragedies one week apart on this one road has hit everyone here hard, "Last week it was the car accident down there and now this week this. I mean I hope that nothing else happens around the neighborhood."

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol says the cause is still under investigation, "It is not suspicious. It appears that the fire originated from where the furnace and hot water tank are located in the house. So again that investigation is still ongoing"

Maciol agrees this past week has been a rough one for those in this part of Westmoreland, "Certainly our hearts and prayers go out to the family and things like this affect everybody, not only the folks that were in the home with him but also the firefighters and first responders that put their lives on the line trying to save him."

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