Friday, January 02, 2004
By Ann Belser, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An Indiana County hunter was fatally burned New Year's Eve
when his elevated hunting stand caught fire.
Wayne L. Duckworth, 64, of West Wheatfield, was hunting
with a muzzleloader rifle when the structure his family had built on top of
utility poles caught fire. He was found by his son, who heard a noise like
an explosion and then cries for help.
State police said yesterday they were trying to figure out
how the fire started.
The hunting stand was supported by six utility poles with
an open porch-like area about 8 feet high, and another enclosed room 15 feet
up. The stand was about 200 yards from his house on the farm where he raised
cattle, a neighbor said. A staircase was built from the ground up to the
It could be seen from Bowser Road and was in a field on
He was in a room that was carpeted and had Plexiglas
windows and a steel door, said Michael Baker, Indiana County chief deputy
"This was a tree stand-like structure, like a tree cabin
or a tree house," Baker said. "It was very well-built and very
unusual from what I envision as a tree stand."
State Trooper Bob Valyo said the hunting stand was built
by Duckworth and his family. It is legal to hunt antlered deer and does with
He said Duckworth had been in the stand for about an hour
when the fire started.
Duckworth's son Dustin was about 200 yards away when first
he heard the sound of gunpowder exploding, possibly the rifle firing, and
then his father's cry for help. When he went to see what was happening, he
saw the hunting stand in flames and his father on the ground with severe
Wayne Duckworth was pronounced dead by Baker just before 6
Baker said the enclosed room also had two kerosene heaters
that investigators found on the ground. Both heaters had fallen from the
burning cabin. Police are trying to determine if the heaters sparked the
gunpowder or the gunpowder started burning and ignited the rest of the
Duckworth's family declined to be interviewed.
Duckworth was so badly burned that Baker said he had to
use X-rays to make a positive identification. He said he may perform an
The fire, though considered an accident, was still being