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Cause unclear in deadly car fire at Santa Rosa sports field

  • Santa Rosa firefighters look for hot spots on a car fire, Wednesday January 15, 2014 at A Place to Play park on West Third street in Santa Rosa. Preliminary reports say that at least one person died. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2014

Police are still investigating a deadly car fire at a west Santa Rosa sports complex but said they have not found any obvious evidence of violence in connection with the Wednesday afternoon blaze.

The identity of the victim remained unconfirmed Thursday -#8212; the remains too severely burned even to determine gender with certainty, authorities said.

Fire crews found the body partly inside and partly outside the driver-side door of the charred Honda Civic, suggesting an attempt to escape the flames.

The 3:49 p.m. blaze appeared to have started inside the car, which was parked at A Place to Play on West Third Street. The cause of the fire won't be determined until a more extensive examination of the vehicle is conducted, police Sgt. David Linscomb said.

There were no immediate signs of smoking material or flammable substances in the car, he said.

"There's nothing to indicate there was any foul play at all," said Linscomb, who oversees violent crimes investigations for Santa Rosa police. "It was most likely accidental."

The car has been seen frequently parked at A Place to Play, Linscomb said. It is registered to a Santa Rosa man, but family members were not able to shed a great deal of light on what may have happened, Linscomb said.

Authorities said they believe the victim likely was male, though it won't be known at least until Friday, when an autopsy is scheduled. It will take two to four weeks before results are available on toxicology tests that would reveal any use of drugs or alcohol by the victim, said sheriff's Sgt. Greg Stashyn, who supervises the coroner's office.

Police said anyone with information about the case is asked to call its Violent Crimes Team at (707) 543-3590.


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