Investigators believe the man was trying to get out of his camping chair when he stumbled into the fire

By Rachel DeSantis
November 18, 2020 10:40 AM
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A man in Georgia was killed in what authorities called a “freak accident” after he stumbled into a fire while trying to stand up from his chair.

Robert Ratliff Jr., 71, died in a fire off the highway in Franklin on Saturday, Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King said in a news release.

Ratliff had been staying at the property for about two weeks, according to the property owner, and on Saturday, the owner returned from a hunting camp around 7 p.m. to find the fire, King said.

The property owner found Ratliff’s body near a tree, and said the woods were on fire.

“Our investigators believe Mr. Ratliff was getting out of his camping chair when he stumbled into the fire,” King said. “This freak accident gives us heavy hearts as we pray for the loved ones impacted and we continue to investigate this case.”

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A Heard County police deputy eventually arrived to extinguish the fire, and found Ratliff’s phone and wallet in the blaze.

His death marks the 75th fire fatality in Georgia this year, the release said.

The State Fire Investigations Unite will investigate alongside the Heard County Sheriff’s Office, Heard County Fire Department, Heard County Coroner’s Office and Forestry Unit.