UPDATE (7:36 p.m., 02/01/2020) – In response to questions about the identity of a body found after a massive fire consumed Dent’s Funeral Home Saturday, Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen says that any speculation as to the identity will have to wait until after a full investigation has been done.
As is procedure with the Coroner’s Office, if the identity of the individual is discovered the family will be informed first.
The Coroner’s Office is currently relying upon fingerprint identification in order to accurately identify the body.
The body was found during a routine fire investigation in the wake of the blaze that consumed Dent Funeral Home Saturday morning, with two shifts of firefighting crews responding to the location starting at 5 a.m. and efforts to keep the fire under control lasting for close to five hours.
The roof of the historic structure at 903 D’Antignac Street had completely collapsed by the time fire crews were leaving the scene, leaving investigators to take photographs and possibly determine the cause of the blaze.
This, says Bowen, is when the body was discovered.
The Dent undertaking company has not been in operation for over a decade, but the iconic building remained an important historical site for the Laney Walker community.
AUGUSTA, Ga.- “We have investigators on the scene right now, but, no, they haven’t told me anything as far as the cause of the fire,” says Frank Lanier, Chief Commander.
Investigators with the Augusta Fire Department are working to figure out what caused a fire that burned the historic Dent’s Funeral Home in Downtown Augusta.
Officials tell us they responded to a call around 5 a.m. Saturday and rushed to the scene to find an intense fire. They say they began to immediately search and rescue operations from what part of the building they could access.
“Crews arrived. They had heavy fire pretty much all the way through the building. It already ventilated, so the roofs were pretty much gone,” says Commander Lanier.
After successfully putting the fire out, officials and investigators went through the burned building to see what might have caused the blaze. Later on Saturday evening, during their investigation, a further tragedy was discovered: an unidentified body was found in the rubble of the burned building.
Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen was called to the scene. At the time of Bowen’s arrival, around 4 p.m. Saturday, the body was believed to be someone seeking shelter.
“As usual we would come by here and find people going in and out of the funeral home. The homeless type people. Evidently this body was staying overnight here,” says Bowen.
Bowen tells us they will conduct an autopsy soon.
WJBF has been told that dent’s funeral home was built in 1900 and has been abandoned for nearly a decade. Historian Joyce Law tells us this is a huge historic lost for Augusta.
“To lose this building it is one more erasure of history for the African American community that goes beyond Laney Walker Historic district,” says Law.