EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 27, 2014

Fatal fire cause 'undetermined'

METHUEN — Investigators have been unable to pinpoint what caused a fatal fire early Wednesday morning at 22 Buttonwood Drive but do not believe it was suspicious, Fire Chief Steven Buote said.

Thelma McDermott, 79, and her husband, James McDermott, 81, are believed to have died in the fire, but the medical examiner is using dental records to confirm the identities of the two victims.

Buote said the cause if officially undetermined but investigators could not rule out several probable causes, including improper disposal of fireplace ashes, electrical failure or a motor vehicle malfunction. The fire started in an attached garage, where a car was parked.

The home is not believed to have had any working smoke detectors.

The deaths in the Methuen fire were the 10th and 11th fire-related deaths in the state since Jan. 1.

Thelma McDermott's body was found near a bathroom window in the back of the home, while that of her husband was found just inside the front door.

More on this story in tomorrow's Eagle-Tribune and at eagletribune.com.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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