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Elderly Man Dies in House Fire, Police Officers Tried to Save Him

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

OBION COUNTY, Tenn.- Union City Police Officers are investigating a house fire that killed a disabled elderly veteran, Sunday.

Officers said the death of Marcus Sasser, 65, is a heartbreaking loss for the community and two officers who risked their lives over and over to try and reach him through the flames and smoke. Union City police officers were the first to respond to burning home in the 1000 block of High Street in Union City after neighbors called for help.

When neighbors told responding officer Ben Yates there was a disabled veteran trapped inside, officials said he sprang into action. Neighbors said Yates immediately kicked through the front door and crawled through the home with intense smoke and heat to try and save a man he did not even know.

"I knew that if he was still alive I was his only chance... I was his only chance of making it out alive," said Officer Ben Yates, Union City Police Dept. "It was a lot worse than I ever thought it would be, it was definitely overwhelming, It was indescribable."

Yates could not reach Sasser who was in the back bedroom. Officials said that is when off duty officer Ben Burnett ran over to help. Both officers took turns searching the home, each trying to crawl further than before.

"Very very brave...very brave," said neighbor Josh Pollock. "I held the screen door, they went in and I mean 15 seconds later they came out coughing and had to get oxygen."

Yates told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News the two then tried 3 or 4 more times to reach Sasser through the back door, but were only able to make it inside halfway.

"I just didn't want to leave anybody inside of the home if there was a chance in getting him out alive," said Yates.

Firefighters were able to get Sasser out, but it was too late. Officials said Sasser was immediately taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. Neighbors said he was a good man.

"For the chance I met him he told me he was a military guy," said Pollock. "I asked him where he was from...he said that he didn't really have a place because he was from all over...from the military. He was disabled..he was a nice guy."

"It's a sad time for not only the community but his family," said Chief Perry Barfield, Union City Police Dept. "It's a heartbreaking situation."

Officer Yates and Officer Burnett both had to be treated for smoke inhalation on the scene. Though Yates said they are still coughing up soot, they checked out okay.

Both Neighbors and police said they were praying for the family. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire officials said at this time they do not consider it suspicious.



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