Two men were found dead after a Belleville trailer caught fire just after midnight Monday on South 15th Street.
One of the victims lived in the trailer at 21 S. 15th St., according to Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour.
The man who lived in the trailer was identified as James Bell, 67, whose time of death was determined to be about 2:12 a.m., according to St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. The other man in the house was Michael Hangsleben, 55, who was listed as living in Minnesota but had relatives in the Belleville area.
Pour said the cause of the fire was being investigated. He noted there were several space heaters in the back bedroom of the trailer and no working smoke detectors in the home.
William Eiland has lived next door to the trailer for about two years. He said he woke up around 12:30 a.m. and looked outside to see flames shooting from his neighbor’s home.
“I saw his bedroom engulfed in flames,” Eiland said. “I had to get the car out of the way because I was afraid the car might blow up. After that, I saw his body laying in the doorway and I was just stunned. I knew that nobody (was) getting out of there.”
Eiland said his neighbor had a few space heaters.
“It’s horrific. It’s the worst. You actually seen something like this ...” he paused, shaking his head. “Like they say, fire is like a living thing. It engulfs everything.”
Eiland said Bell was a generous and kind-hearted person.
“Jimmy had a big heart; he would help you anyway he can,” Eiland said. “If it’s his last couple of dollars and you really needed it, he’d give it to you.”
Illinois State Police and the St. Clair County Coroner were at the scene around 8:30 a.m. Monday.
A previous version of this story misstated Michael Hangsleben’s age. The BND regrets the error.