Officials say there is no evidence of foul play in a flash fire that killed a brother and sister in a block building in Colbert during the early hours of Sunday, June 21.
Local mail carrier Lisa Shubert, 42, of Colbert School Road and her brother, Terry (T.J.) Cotton, 39, of Madison Street, were pronounced dead at the scene following resuscitation efforts, according to Madison County coroner Michelle Cleveland. Preliminary autopsy results are in, but Cleveland said this week that she is awaiting toxicology reports for a definitive cause of death, which could take as long as several months.
A third victim, Jerry Scott Payne, also of Colbert School Road, was transported by Emory Life Flight helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital’s burn center with severe burns to 60-70 percent of his body, as well as smoke inhalation injuries. He remains in the burn unit this week, undergoing treatment for his injuries, according to family members. A benefit fund has been set up at Merchants and Farmers Bank to help with medical expenses.
Cleveland said firefighters found Shubert and Cotton along the back wall of the small block building. “Their only exit (at the front) was blocked by fire,” Cleveland said.
According to, Colbert Volunteer Fire Department chief Tim Wyatt, Colbert, along with Hull and Neese-Sanford fire departments, responded to the scene on Colbert School Road just off Hwy. 72 about 1:30 a.m.
They found Payne outside the building and Wyatt and Cleveland said it was unclear whether he had escaped the entrance or been blown out by the force of the explosion.
Wyatt said there was no evidence whatsoever of any illegal activity, such as rumors of a methamphetamine lab.
Though an investigation failed to show exactly what caused the fire, Wyatt said the most likely scenario is that someone dropped a cigarette on the floor near the entrance to the building, which was also near where several containers of old gunpowder were stored, left over from the building’s former use as a gun repair shop. The effect was a “flash fire.” Wyatt said there technically was no explosion. He also heard that a string of Christmas lights had been turned on near the entrance, but he said they were unable to find any evidence of that.
Shubert and Payne reportedly lived in a mobile home next door, and along with Cotton, had gone to the block building to store some yard sale items from a Saturday yard sale inside in case of rain when the event occurred.
In fact, Wyatt said his wife had shopped at the yard sale and a friend of his had purchased some book shelves from Shubert at the sale.
Asked how those at the scene were holding up, Wyatt said they had held a meeting after the incident and that he thought everyone was coping OK but that they had certainly been shaken by the experience. “Some of these fellows have been doing this for a long time and have never had to drag a body out of a fire before,” he said, adding that the trauma was compounded by the fact that Shubert was known by most everyone at the scene.
“She was also my mail carrier,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt commended all those who came to the scene that night for their skill and professionalism. “I just want to thank my guys, Hull and Neese-Sanford who came to assist, Dwayne (Patton) and the EMS crew, the sheriff and deputies, first responders, just everyone who came – it was a great team and community effort,” Wyatt said.
Scott is being kept sedated and in a coma state. He has under gone several skin graft surgeries and still remains in critical condition. He is expected to remain in Grady burn unit for over a month or two. He will have a very long and hard recovery both physically and emotionally. Please continue to pray for him.
07/08/09 at 10:32 PM
The picture is disrespectful to they family, it should have NOT been posted.
The idiots we live around...
07/11/09 at 12:50 PM
This picture isn't disrespectful in any way. Look, Mr. Explorer... so in other words, Mr. Under 18 Years Old. Learn a little about journalisim before you spout off with your horrible grammar.
This is a photo of the incident location and is able to be posted. It's not ment to be disrespectful. You still have some growing and learning to do, bud.