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Cause of deadly Bristol mobile home fire still unknown

Authorities have determined that a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to save his mother during a mobile home fire in Bristol Monday morning. The Elkhart County Coroner, however, determined the woman was dead before the fire started.
Posted on Dec. 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 16, 2013 at 8:08 a.m.

BRISTOL — On receiving word of a fire at his mother's mobile home, Bob Chupp thought — hoped — it was just a minor blaze.

Last summer, Chupp said, he had received a call about a fire at her home, but by the time he arrived, it was out.

This time the outcome was very different. When he arrived early Monday morning, Dec. 16, after getting an urgent call at work, he was greeted by a string of emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, parked along the road leading to the woman's home in Timberbrook Mobile Home Park. Inside, Chupp's mother, Cindy Kabay, 67, and the woman's son, Chad Russell, 42, had died.

“This time of the year's not good to have stuff like this happen,” Chupp said later in the morning, still trying to grapple with the tragic news.

Chupp — half-brother to Russell — doesn't know what happened. Authorities were still looking into the cause of the fire.

Elkhart County Coroner John White said tests showed “extremely high” levels of carbon monoxide in Russell's body and determined Russell's cause of death to be carbon monoxide poisoning.

The carbon monoxide levels in Kabay's body were much lower and she died of natual causes related to a long history of health problems before the fire started, White said.

At this point, no autopsies are planned, White said.

According to the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, the bodies of Kabay and Russell were found near the entrance of the home, 526 N. Arbutus, located on one of the many narrow streets inside the mobile home park west of Bristol.

“They were at the door on their way out,” Randy Russell, Chad Russell's half-brother, said late Monday afternoon. “They couldn't quite make it.”

The Bristol Fire Department received word of the blaze at 7:02 a.m. Monday morning and units from the Benton, Concord, Osolo and Elkhart township fire departments assisted.

Ralph Beebe, who lives near the Kabay-Russell home, was alerted to the blaze by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. As a precaution, he and two of his three kids still home at the time exited their home until the fire was brought under control.

There were flames, Beebe said, “mainly coming out of the middle.”

Yellow police tape kept the public at bay as firefighters fought the blaze in the cold and snow, smoke emanating from the structure. Later, around 9 a.m., as firefighting efforts wound down and some of the restrictions eased, the damage became more evident. The area around what appeared to be the main entrance was charred, the windows broken out, and dark smoke still seeped out of the home.

'A GOOD PERSON'

Now, family of Kabay and Russell are left to mourn.

“It's always going to take a little time for it to really hit,” said Greg Kabay, departing the scene with other family. Cindy Kabay was his stepmother, married to his father, and Russell was his stepbrother.

Later at the main office of the mobile home park, where Chupp, Greg Kabay and others had met with a chaplain, Chupp remembered his mother.

“She's a good person, willing to do for others. She's always looking out for the neighbors, trying to be everybody's mother,” Chupp said.

She had lived at Timberbrook 20 or so years while her husband, William Kabay, is at a rehabilitation facility due to medical issues so he wasn't there, according to Chupp. Russell had recently moved in to help care for his mother.

“Down to earth, kind of laid back,” Chupp said of Russell.

Neither Cindy Kabay nor Russell were working. “They were pretty much kind of homebound,” Chupp said.

Reporter Emily Pfund contributed to this article.


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