A fatal house fire at 211 E. Willis Street in Jennings late Monday claimed the life of Kenneth Ray Riggs, 55. Riggs' mother and brother-in-law escaped the burning home. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 9:34 PM
JENNINGS — A disabled man who used a wheelchair and scooter to get around died in a house fire late Monday.
Kenneth Ray Riggs, 55, was unable to escape the burning home, despite efforts by his brother-in-law, Leon Davis, to rescue him. His mother, Marguerite “Maggie” Riggs, escaped without injury.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Marguerite Riggs said the blaze may have started in a bedroom in the northwest corner of the single-story wood-frame home, at 211 E. Willis St.
“My son-in-law was fixing Kenneth something to eat and had gone down the hall,” Marguerite Riggs said Tuesday. “By that time the fire had already started and there were flames.”
The fire spread quickly, she said.
“I saw the flames and immediately started screaming and hollering,” she said. “I grabbed the phone to try to call the Fire Department, but I couldn’t even dial 911.”
Davis tried to put the fire out with a garden hose, but could not bring the blaze under control, she said. He re-entered the home and tried to rescue Kenneth, but was overcome by the intense heat and smoke and had to get out of the burning structure, she said.
“We couldn’t do nothing else,” she said. “I’m sorry we couldn’t get him out. We tried.”
Firefighters found Kenneth Riggs’ body still in his wheelchair in the hallway shortly after bringing the fire under control.
“I wanted to see him, but they wouldn’t let me see him,” Marguerite Riggs said.
Sitting in her son’s home nearby just hours after the fire and surrounded by family and friends, Marguerite Riggs and other family members remembered Kenneth Riggs as a well-liked person who loved to tell jokes, talked about cooking and got around town on his scooter.
“He’d get around on that thing,” niece Shontell Riggs said. “I remember him riding that scooter in the road like it was a car.”
She said everyone in town knew her uncle and described him as an outgoing person, who many knew by his nickname, “Rambo.”
Marguerite Riggs said her son liked to tell jokes and make people laugh.
His younger brother, Gary Riggs Sr., said he was a good brother who loved to clown around.
“We got along real good,” Gary Riggs Sr. said. “He’d make you laugh.”
He said Kenneth loved his mother and often waited outside for her to get home.
Marguerite Riggs had lived in the home for more than 30 years and had raised her children there. Kenneth had been living with her in recent years after separating from his wife, she said.