Victim identified in Blairsville blaze
BLAIRSVILLE — The Indiana County Coroner’s Office has identified the man killed in Wednesday’s downtown business district fire as Paul Eugene Tressler, 69, of Shady Hollow Road, Blairsville.
Coroner Jerry Overman and Blairsville police said Tressler’s body was recovered Thursday morning in the rubble of Sharon’s Restaurant and Lounge, 244 E. Market St. The 2-1/2-story restaurant building was one of four structures destroyed or heavily damaged by the fire that started about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
According to police, an officer arrived on the scene within a minute of the alarm and heavy smoke and flames were already visible.
The flames spread to neighboring buildings housing Chaek’s ice cream shop — owned by David and Carol Chaek for decades — and a photography studio and to an apartment building. Those adjacent buildings were destroyed or damaged by flames, smoke and water.
Overman said occupants of Sharon’s Restaurant and Lounge were closing for the evening Wednesday when the fire started in a deep fryer after it boiled over. Overman said it’s unclear why Tressler did not leave the building with everyone else.
Firefighters from several communities fought the flames through the night and excavating equipment was brought in Thursday morning to search through the debris when Tressler was missing and unaccounted for. His body was uncovered at about 9:55 a.m. Thursday.
Overman said the cause and manner of Tressler’s death will be determined by an autopsy today at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown and by toxicology tests.
No other injuries were reported. George Burkley, chief of the Blairsville fire department, said nine residents were displaced by the fire.
Blairsville police and a state police fire marshal are also investigating the blaze.
PHOTO: People lined East Market Street in Blairsville Thursday to watch crews tear down the fire-damaged businesses. (Tom Peel/Gazette)