Cops: Electrical fire killed WWII vet Wesley Carrion
The fire that killed a World War II veteran at his bungalow home in Sag Harbor on Monday afternoon has been ruled noncriminal, caused by an electrical malfunction, Suffolk County police said.
Wesley Carrion, 90, part of the "Red Ball Express" operation that supplied World War II troops, was found in a bedroom of his Hillside Drive East house, where he lived alone, Sag Harbor police said.
A Suffolk police spokeswoman said Tuesday that arson squad investigators determined the fire was electrical and was not suspicious. The medical examiner will determine Carrion's cause of death.
A neighbor had called authorities about 3:40 p.m. after seeing smoke coming out of the house, Sag Harbor police Det. Jeffrey Proctor, who went to the scene, said Monday.
When police and firefighters arrived, Proctor said, "one of the bedrooms, not the bedroom that he was in, was engulfed in flames."
Carrion's son said his sister and brother-in-law, who also live in Sag Harbor, stopped by daily to check on the elder Carrion.
Wesley V. Carrion said his father had resisted living with his children as he got older, preferring to stay in the bungalow that his parents bought more than 45 years ago as a summer place for the family.
"He was a pretty independent character," said the son, of East Setauket. "He didn't want to go anywhere. He had his home."
Carrion moved into Sag Harbor full time after retiring as a New York City probation officer in the 1980s, his son said.
He worked for the probation department in Brooklyn from 1955 to 1984, when he left as a supervising probation officer, an agency spokesman said.
That was his second career -- his first was the Army, which drafted him in July 1943 during World War II, Carrion said.
One of eight children, his father soon realized he liked the Army's regimentation and could make a career there, even as an African-American in an era of discrimination.
"There was no limitation just because you were black," the younger Carrion said. "Your limitation was how well you could do things. The idea of service lies pretty deep as well -- the idea you could serve and affect people positively."
Carrion was a driver on the famous Red Ball Express, a huge trucking operation that lasted nearly three months as Gen. George Patton swept across France and into Germany after the Nazis.
Most of the men on the Express were black, and their challenge was to keep up with front-line troops, bringing them bullets, food and fuel.
The elder Carrion talked little about the war, his son said, but he loved the Army. He went to college to get a master's degree in history, then rejoined the Army, leaving as a major.
But the Army was always in his father, including teaching Army tenets to his children, the son said: "His way of talking was just the way you'd get in a briefing -- one, two, three, four. People loved it.
"He was kindhearted. Everybody who ever met him outside the family would say he's the nicest, sweetest guy they'd ever met. He would just listen to them or helped them with a problem," he said.
Carrion said his father competed in national bridge tournaments. He won enough games to be titled a "life master" and loved the game because of its social aspects and the mind games of analyzing opponents, the son said.
He also had a strong work ethic, the son said: "His goal was his family would have a better life than he did."
Carrion was taken to Southampton Hospital, police said.
"It's sad that he's gone," said next-door neighbor Gini Booth, who rushed home from work after learning there was a fire at Carrion's home. "Nobody should have to die that way."
She said Carrion had been a "fixture" in the community because he had lived there for years. "He'd been here for a long time so he was somebody everybody knew."