One killed in fire at DOH garage in Webster County

Photo shows a roof that was partially destroyed in a blaze that killed transportation worker Stephen M. Cogar at the state Division of Highways garage in Webster County. (WCHS/WVAH)

Webster County 911 dispatchers said one person was killed in a fire at the Webster County Division of Highways garage in Cherry Falls.

Stephen M. Cogar, 22, was found inside the building about 2:50 a.m. Monday. Life-saving attempts were made, and Cogar was transported to Webster County Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead after an aggressive attempt to save his life, according to a news release from the Webster County Office of Emergency Services,.

Webster County 911 received two hang-up 911 calls Monday morning from a cell phone later discovered to belong to Cogar, the news release said. Dispatchers had talked to Cogar several times on social media prior to the calls, the news release said.

The Webster County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to investigate after numerous attempts to call Cogar were made.

About 2:40 a.m., deputies arrived at the state Division of Highways headquarters in Webster Springs and reported a working fire.

Carrie Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said the worker died of smoke inhalation. He had only been employed with the agency since October.

"Along with dealing with this tragic loss, District 7 staff are trying to address keeping our operations up and running in Webster County,” Jones said in an email.

Gov. Jim Justice's Office sent out a statement from the governor and first lady, Cathy Justice, with reaction about the worker's death.

"Cathy and I are heartbroken upon learning of the death of a West Virginia Division of Highways worker early this morning during a fire at the DOH Headquarters in Webster County," the statement said. "It's tragic to lose one of our state employees, especially one so young. We ask all West Virginians to join us in praying for the family, friends and co-workers of this young man."

Secretary of Transportation Tom Smith also released a statement.

"Early this morning, there was a fire at our Webster County Maintenance Headquarters. Tragically, one of our team members lost their life. Knowing what to say in these situations is always difficult for us, but as Secretary of Transportation, I will tell you that we are devastated and heartbroken and I hope, in the coming days, I can reach out to the family and personally express our sorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and co-workers."

The Webster County Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation. The West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office is investigating.

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