South Carolina elderly couple found dead in home with heater at 1,000F

<span>Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

An elderly couple in South Carolina was found dead in their house over the weekend after their heater measured over 1,000F (537.8C) , according to authorities.

Related: Dozens of elderly people across US died after leaving care facilities unchecked

On Saturday evening, police in South Carolina’s northern city of Spartanburg performed a welfare check on a house on Woodview Avenue following concerns from family members who had not heard from their parents since last Wednesday, according to a police report reviewed by the Guardian.

Upon arriving at the residence, police found the doors of the house locked. They eventually were able to get into the house via an unsecured bedroom window and described the interior to be “extremely hot”.

Upon entering the bedroom, police discovered the dead couple. The man was found lying on the bed unclothed and facing upwards while the woman was at the side of the bed, clothed and slouched in a chair. Authorities did not observe signs of struggle, foul play or carbon monoxide poisoning. They added that fire officials measured the carbon dioxide levels in the house which were “not at a concerning level”.

Medics measured the couple’s bodies with a device that only registered temperatures up to 106F (41C), according to the police report. Both victims’ temperatures exceeded 106F. The report added that fire officials measured the house’s interior temperature and found it to exceed 120F (48.9C), despite the house being open for 20 minutes to the cold weather.

Authorities also checked the basement where the heater and hot water heater were located and discovered that the “heater was so hot it looked as if the basement was currently on fire”, according to one firefighter. After deactivating the heater, authorities measured its temperature and found it to be “over 1,000 degrees”, the police report said.

It added that fire officials continued to air out the residence “due to the strong odor of natural gas”.

Family members were at the couple’s house last Wednesday helping them with their heater. The family reportedly told authorities that both the house’s heater and hot water heater were out and that the house was getting too cold. They noticed that the hot water heater’s pilot light was out and started “fiddling” with it, moving a wire and it eventually turned on. Once the light turned back on, the family members left the residence.

The police report stated that after not hearing from their parents for several days, the family members became concerned. They told authorities that their parents had several health issues and were not easily mobile, adding that the man fell recently while the woman had a hip surgery.

The couple has been identified by the Spartanburg county coroner’s office as 84-year old Joan Littlejohn and 82-year old Glennwood Fowler.

“We … are concerned with why the temperature was so high,” the Spartanburg county coroner, Rusty Clevenger, said in a statement provided to the Guardian.

“We followed through with forensic exams this morning that will require more testing. CO2 is one test as it was mentioned in the police report. We will continue to investigate. We ask you keep the families of Ms Littlejohn and Mr Fowler in your thoughts and prayers during their time of loss and grief,” he added.