Ohio Nursing Home Resident Dies After Setting Himself on Fire While Smoking in Wheelchair Holding Oxygen Tank

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(File photo) Oakwood Village detective Ed Thyret told local media outlet Fox8 yesterday that a preliminary investigation suggested the man had also been using oxygen at the time of the incident. iStock

A resident of an Ohio nursing home has died after accidentally setting himself on fire while smoking a cigarette, a law enforcement official has confirmed.

Oakwood Village Police Department detective Ed Thyret told Fox8 this week that a preliminary investigation suggested the man had also been using oxygen at the time of the incident, which occurred on April 17. The victim was identified as Joseph Konopa of Cuyahoga County.

According to a transcript of the 911 call, a witness told police dispatchers that the man had fallen to the ground and that his wheelchair was on fire. "Help him!" the caller pleaded. Police quickly attended to the scene—at the Grande Oaks nursing home on Broadway Avenue.

Thyret, the first to respond, told Fox8 the victim had been face-down when he approached. The news outlet reported a passerby had called the police after noticing flames.

"There was a wheelchair that was smoldering in front of the building with a male lying on the ground," the detective said. "I noticed the male wasn't breathing and noticed that something needed to be done now, so as we got him rolled over I checked his vitals. He had no pulse, he wasn't breathing. So my instinct was to start CPR until our fire department got there."

Speaking to WOIO (Cleveland19), Thyret said he had seen burns on the victim's face. He said evidence suggested the incident was an accident, not a crime. Based on images taken by the police department, a packet of cigarettes and a lighter were discovered at the scene.

WOIO reported Konopa had been in an outside gazebo area just prior to his death. He was not being observed because most residents at the home are free to move about, Thyret said.

Konopa later passed away from his injuries after being taken to a local hospital. The Cuyahoga medical examiner told WEWS-TV (News5 Cleveland) that the victim was 63 years old.

There were no other injuries in the fire. Embassy Healthcare, the organization which oversees the Oakwood Village nursing home, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

But a company spokesperson told WEWS-TV: "Resident care and safety is the highest priority. Due to the privacy and confidentiality of our resident's information we are unable to discuss specific resident information. Embassy healthcare is cooperating fully with state and local governing bodies on this investigation."

Grande Oaks nursing home
Grande Oaks nursing home. Located at 24579 Broadway Avenue in Oakwood Village, Ohio. Google Maps