Body From Fire Identified

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

CUMBERLAND — After multiple attempts to save her disabled father from a burning mobile home, Crystal Arthur finally was forced to stop. She held his hand through a window while the building burned, telling him to hold on, that she was coming. Then, he just let go.

Now, Arthur can finally put his ashes to rest. Five weeks after Billy Cassell passed away in the fire, a Richmond medical examiner positively identified his remains. Identification of the body was delayed because it had to be completed using a DNA sample, which usually requires at least six to eight weeks to process.

The cause of death was primarily smoke inhalation, according to Special Agent R. Allen Cox of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The body was also severely burnt. Due to its condition, Arthur says cremation of the body was the only option. She picked up the urn with Cassell’s ashes on Monday, May 5, she told The Herald.

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The March 20 fire was accidentally started, according to Cox, who investigated the scene. He believes it started from a grease fire in the kitchen where French fries were being cooked.

Arthur wrote The Herald yesterday that she loved her father and misses him everyday: “I don’t understand why this happened to him and I’m so sorry I couldn’t save him despite my numerous attempts.”

The mobile home, located on Carneal Court in northern Cumberland County, was completely destroyed. Arthur and her young daughter, Destiny, lived there with Cassell. Cumberland dispatch received two calls reporting the fire, one from Arthur and another from neighbor Tammy Rhoden. When the Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the scene there was heavy smoke and half of the trailer was already fully involved.

According to neighbors and Cox, Arthur attempted multiple times to rescue her father, who was trapped inside the mobile home and could not walk. She first attempted to drag him out of the building, according to Rhoden, until the smoke became too thick and she couldn’t see any more. Arthur later attempted to enter the mobile home numerous times, at one point even trying to break through the rear of the trailer where her father was located.

Neighbors at Carneal Court also tried to help rescue Cassell, with one sustaining injuries to his hand.

Arthur told The Herald that if it were not for her neighbors, she would never have stopped going in after her father. The detective later told her that if she had gone back one more time, there would have been two fatalities, Arthur says.

Destiny was on the school bus during the time of the fire. Two grown dogs, a puppy and two cats lived with the family. It is believed that only one cat escaped.

Arthur was taken from the scene of the fire to Centra Southside Community Hospital and then flown to the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, according to American Red Cross officials and state police. She was treated for severe smoke inhalation. Arthur has a few scars, but is now fully recovered physically, she told The Herald. She is in the process of putting her life back together.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Cox encourages readers to remember that grease fires should be smothered. In the event of an oil fire, never use water to put out the fire. Water can cause flaming oil to splatter and spread. The best thing to do is use a kitchen fire extinguisher or covering the pan with a metal lid.

Those who would like to help the family pay for medical bills, funeral costs, etc., may do so by visiting a special GoFundMe site at