DEADLY FIRE – Fire officials are investigating an early morning blaze that not only totally destroyed at two-storey home in the Emerald Bay area on Wednesday (June 5), but where charred remains were discovered in the ashes. (PHOTOS: JENNEVA RUSSELL) 

Only the shell of a dwelling home and charred remains, believed to be that of the owners, were left after a fire broke out at the Matching Lane and Matching Circle residence in the Emerald Bay area in the early morning hours on Wednesday (June 5).

Three fire emergency vehicles along with marked and unmarked police cars were on site, including a Crime Scene Investigators’ (CSI) van were in the quiet neighbourhood.

Firefighters worked diligently to extinguish the blaze, while officers conducted their preliminary investigations into the deadly fire.

The two-storey home had been engulfed in flames and reportedly burned for quite some time yesterday. The totally destroyed building was positioned further back from the property’s perimeter, which is surrounded by a fence covered in shrubbery. Several trees and flowers decorated the residence’s large yard in and outside of the fence.

The structure had an exterior staircase that led to the upper level living quarters and its windows, which had metal hurricane shutters were blown out leaving a clear view of the home’s burnt interior.

Chief Fire Officer for Grand Bahama and the Northern Bahamas Superintendent Earnest Hanna, dressed in his firefighting gear and appearing exhausted, spoke with media at the horrific scene.

Supt. Hanna said that around 3:00 a.m., police received word of the fire and firefighters were dispatched immediately.

“Sometime around 3:00 a.m. this morning (Wednesday) fire services received information of a structural fire in the Emerald Bay area, where we met a fully involved fire at the dwelling home,” he said.

Supt. Hanna revealed that upon investigating the property, officers discovered the charred remains of a human body.

“At this time, we are investigating information that the occupants – an elderly male and female believed to be in their 70s – may be inside the building. I can confirm at this time that we have located what appears to be the remains of a badly burned human body in the building,” he said.

He added that the officers would continue their search to see if they can ascertain whether or not there was another person in the building.

Later information provided by the RBPF confirmed that a second body was found among the ashes.

Supt. Hanna revealed that the bodies were found in the same area of the home. Additionally, officers discovered the remains of four dogs.

At the time of the interview, Supt. Hanna stated that the fire had been extinguished to an extent and officers were in the “mopping up stages.”

He shared that a vehicle and other items had been completely destroyed along with the home itself.

Supt. Hanna furthered th-at they have information regarding the identities of the occupants but cannot publicly confirm their names at this time.

Although authorities did not reveal the identities of the victims, the remains are believed to be that of prominent Grand Bahama residents Ben and Judy Rose.

An outpouring of condolences were posted on the Facebook page, Freeport Friends, on Wednesday (June 5) after word of the deadly fire spread.

Ben Rose was a legendary local diver and a pioneer in the diving industry, who has a cave named after him.

The Freeport News reached out to administration at UNEXSO who shared a statement on Rose’s impact on the Grand Bahama community and his time with them.

UNEXSO General Manager, Linda Osborne stated that the company was deeply saddened to hear of Ben and Judy Rose’s (alleged) untimely passing.

“Ben was one of the original staff members of UNEXSO back in 1967, working with us for over 20 years, and the Company would not be where it is today without his significant contributions,” she said.

She affirmed that Rose is considered a legend in the world of diving and was so honoured here in 2009 for his multiple contributions to not only the industry, but to Grand Bahama. In 1969 he was the first person to dive into a Little Blue Hole in the bush, now known today as Ben’s Cavern at The Lucayan National Park.

Rose was also one of the persons responsible for developing the UNEXSO shark dive back in 1989, pioneering shark dive tourism in Grand Bahama.

Osborne noted that throughout his career Rose was passionate about protecting our natural resources, and his passing is a tremendous loss for Grand Bahama and the entire Bahamas.

“We will remember Ben as a champion of our underwater environment, friend to the sharks, mentor, teacher and friend. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ben and Judy’s family,” she said.

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