Bowling Green Fire Department, 1898

Fire Flashback: January 27, 1977 WKU Student Dies in Fire

From The Daily News by Tom Caudill

A Western Kentucky University student was killed in a fire in his apartment early this morning. David Harold Shaver, Jr., 24, of 1214 State St., Apt. 3, was found slumped over a floor-standing ashtray in the middle of the small apartment's living quarters, his body badly burned, firemen said.

Shaver's room-mate, Nick Campbell Gunn, 25, was burned on his shoulder and hands while apparently trying to put out the blaze, firemen said, and his condition this morning was listed as fair at City-County Hospital. Gunn reportedly ran to the hospital for treatment, rubbing snow on his wounds as he went. Gunn is a 1974 graduate of Western, whose home address was listed then as 208 Woodlawn Ave., Horse Cave.

Shaver, a senior general business major and sociology minor, was from Greenville. He was a graduate of Greenville High School, adn his home address was 401 Wheeler Ave., Greenville. Shaver's body was taken to Gary's Funeral Home, Greenville, where arrangements are incomplete. Warren County Coroner J.C. Kirby said teh cause of Shaver's death is likely to be listed as accidental burning.

Firemen don't know the cause of the blaze, but Fire Chief Lonnie Bellamy said this morning the fire apparantly started in the living quarters, near the entrance to a kitchenette. The apartment, which also contained a small utility room and bathroom, was gutted, but the rest of the house received little damage. Shaver and Gunn lived upstairs in one of four apartments in the house owned by Joseph Covington, 1239 State Street.

Bellamy said the occupants apparantly were asleep when the fire broke out. He said it appeared Shaver had been asleep on a mattress on the floor. Gunn, who apparantly was aroused first, began trying to put out the fire, Bellamy believes. The commotion awoke an occupant of the neighboring apartment, who summoned firemen. The firefighters said Gunn had escaped from the apartment by the time they arrived, but the flames were too intense for them to enter and save Shaver.

The fire was brought under control within five minutes of the time firemen arrived, about 3:30 a.m. They stayed on the scene until about 6 a.m., however. Fireman Larry Johnson sufferred a slight eye cut and was taken to the hospital for treatment, then released.

Bellamy speculated that Shaver eventually was awakened but the smoke and flames were too intense for him to escape. He said it is possible Shaver couldn't find his way out of the apartment in the dense smoke. Total damage to the house was listed at $5,000 with all the fire damage and most of the smoke damage confined to Shaver's apartment upstairs on the South side. Damage to the contents of the apartment was listed as $1,200. Some water damage was sustained by the apartment below.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

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