Police investigate death in Tupper Lake truck fire
Coroner says smoke inhalation was cause of death
TUPPER LAKE — A man from the Watertown area was found dead in a scorched truck in Tupper Lake Sunday, according to New York State Police.
Police identified the man as Ross L. Goodenough, 72, of Dexter. The truck, a black 2009 GMC Sierra pick-up truck, was registered in Goodenough’s name, according to State Police. The truck was found in a swamp near the end of Washington Street, close to the rail-trail.
State Police are continuing to investigate the death and are seeking information — or surveillance video of any “suspicious activity” — from people living in that area. State Police Public Information Officer Brandi Ashley said police have not determined the cause of the fire, or why the truck was where it was, and have not decided if they are investigating Goodenough’s death as a crime.
“It’s all still so unclear that they’re just still ruling it ‘under investigation,'” Ashley said. “It’s still at the early stages.”
Tupper Lake-based Franklin County Coroner Shawn Stuart said a pathologist at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady conducted an autopsy on Monday and ruled Goodenough’s cause of death as smoke inhalation. He said he could not speculate on a cause of the fire. Stuart said State Police took the truck in for further investigation.
Ashley said a state fire investigator will be inspecting the evidence today, and she anticipates more information from their findings will be released soon.
On Monday, State Police sought information from the public on Goodenough’s whereabouts after he was reported missing from his home. Police said he was last spoken to on Oct. 14 at about 5:30 p.m.
State Police and Tupper Lake police responded to a report of the incinerated truck at around 1 p.m. Sunday, according to a Monday news release issued by State Police.
State Police and Tupper Lake police are asking people who live around McCarthy and Washington streets to check any surveillance camera systems for “suspicious activity” from 8:30 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday. Anyone with information regarding this incident are asked to call State Police at 518-897-2000.
Tupper Lake Police Chief Eric Proulx said that while his department responded to the call for the truck fire along with State Police, his department has “nothing to do” with the investigation. The Tupper Lake Police Department is short on personnel, Proulx said, and they turned over the investigation to State Police. State Police were seen at the Tupper Lake Police Department on Monday afternoon.
There’s been some speculation in the Tupper Lake community about the circumstances surrounding the truck fire, but when asked about those claims on Monday, State Police Lt. Mark Fenton said he couldn’t confirm or deny any information outside of what State Police confirmed in Monday’s press release.
“When we have more information that we can release to the public, the (public information officer) will put it out there,” Fenton said.
Fenton said that he didn’t know of any “specific threats that the community would need to be worried about” in relation to the truck fire.
Zach Hockey was walking on the rail-trail path to Lead Pond with a friend late on Sunday morning when he came across the truck still smoldering from the fire
“You could tell that it was recently torched,” Hockey said. “It was still making clicking sounds and you could tell it was very recent. Smoking a bit in the front.”
A short video he shot of the truck from the trail shows smoke slowly rising from the dashboard and the truck sitting in marsh near a bit of standing water. The truck’s windows and tires had melted. The truck appears white in the video but State Police identified it as a black truck. The paint may have possibly melted or changed color in the fire. Ashley said the license plate registration listed the truck as black in color on its report.
Hockey said he didn’t want to get too close, adding that he figured the fire had already been reported since there are homes nearby. But on their return, he and his friend saw a crowd of law enforcement at what was then a crime scene. Hockey said he would have reported the truck right away if he had known it hadn’t been reported yet.
Ashley said she expects the State Police will release more information on Goodenough’s death today.