Cleveland BP fire victim an employee, cause pending - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland BP fire victim an employee, cause pending

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CLEVELAND, TN. (WRCB)  --  Tonight, it's a mystery how a gas station attendant died inside the store he was supposed to close for the night.

The BP station in Cleveland caught fire just before 5:00 a.m. Monday.  Inside, firefighters found the body of 32-year-old Randy Hammontree.

Hammontree's body has been sent to the Medical Examiner's office in Knoxville.  Police say figuring out when and how he died is key to the investigation.

"It scared the heck out of me," says Wendy's employee, Cecil Thompson.  "I heard it go, 'boom'. "

Thompson was sitting on the back of his car when he saw flames coming from the gas station.  The grill cook works at the Wendy's restaurant next door, and always gets to work early.

"I didn't see a car," he says.  "It was really dark." 

 Thompson ran to another gas station across the street.  The cashier inside called 911.  Thompson says everyone was worried the pumps would explode.

"It looked like a big ball of flames," Thompson says. 

 The BP gas station was closed when the fire erupted, and not scheduled to open for another hour.

Firefighters kept the flames from spreading.  When they went inside they found Hammontree's body.   

"He was an employee," says Officer, Evie West, with the Cleveland Police Department.  "He worked second shift last night, closed the store and left." 

No one knows why or when Hammontree came back after closing.  "We're trying to figure out the origin of the fire, and cause of death." 

Police say Hammontree wasn't scheduled to open the store Monday, but how he got in is simple.

"He had keys," says West.  "We're still investigating why this situation happened." 

Arson investigators with the city, and state worked the scene all day Monday.  They took pictures and looked for clues.

"They brought the dogs in to sniff and see if they can find accelerants," says West. 

Investigators don't know if it was an accident, but they do say it's suspicious.

"It's very suspicious to us," says West. 

Fire officials say the building is a total loss.  The manager at the scene declined to comment on the incident Monday.  Hammontree's body is scheduled for an autopsy Tuesday.

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