Investigation Into House Fire That Led to Death of Tony Hsieh Remains ‘Active’

Rosemary Feitelberg
·2 min read

QUERY CONTINUES: The “fact-finding investigation” into the Nov. 18 house fire in New London, Conn., that later led to the death of Zappos cofounder Tony Hsieh remains “active and ongoing,” according to police and fire officials.

Hsieh, an innovative and successful tech executive and venture capitalist, died Friday at Bridgeport Hospital after suffering severe burns. The investigation is being handled by New London’s fire marshal’s office and the New London police department’s investigative services division. New London fire and police officials declined comment Monday. The two entities routinely work together on fire investigations.

The cause of death was “complications of smoke inhalation,” according to James R. Gill, M.D., with Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Representatives there deferred any further comment to the New London police department. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the COCME said the manner of death was “accident.”

New London emergency services fire and police officials were called to 500 Pequot Avenue at 3:26 a.m. “for the report of a structure fire with a person trapped inside,” according to the release. Dark smoke was emanating from the back of the residential structure and an undisclosed number of individuals on the scene informed the emergency personnel that a man, who was later identified as Hsieh, was locked inside a storage area where the smoke was and they were unable to get him out, the release stated.

Hsieh’s identity was not revealed by city officials in mid-November when news of the fire was first reported. Following reports of his death over the weekend, New London officials had not publicly linked him to that incident.

Emergency personnel breached the storage door, retrieved Hsieh, and extinguished the fire. The 46-year-old was first transported to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital for treatment of the severe injuries he had sustained, and later transported to Bridgeport Hospital’s Burn Center for more extensive medical care.

The scene of the fire was secured and members of New London’s fire marshal’s office and the city’s police detectives assumed the investigation. The 3,100-square-foot waterfront property reportedly belongs to Rachael Brown, who has worked for Zappos. New London police officials declined to confirm that Monday.

News of Hsieh’s death resulted in tributes from stalwarts like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and former pro skateboarder Tony Hawk. After passing the $1 billion mark in sales in 2009, Hsieh sold Zappos to Amazon in July of that year for $1.2 billion. After 21 years, Hsieh stepped down from the online company in August.

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