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Senior couple dies after heater reaches 1000 F in South Carolina home

FILE - An older couple in South Carolina were found dead in their home after police discovered a heater measuring 1,000 F (about 538 C). Getty Images via gorodenkoff

A senior couple in South Carolina was found dead in their bedroom after authorities discovered a heater in the home had reached 1,000 F (about 538 C).

Police in Spartanburg, S.C., said they visited the home of Joan Littlejohn, 84, and Glennwood Fowler, 82, during a wellness check on Saturday around 6 p.m. Local reports said the couple’s family members requested the visit because they had been unable to contact the couple for the previous three days.

Officers said medical officials entered the home through a bedroom window. Inside, they found the couple dead.

In a police report, authorities said they “noticed the residence was extremely hot” immediately upon entrance.

Using a specialized device, medics took the body temperatures of Littlejohn and Fowler. The device read 106 F (nearly 41 C), the highest temperature it was capable of reading.

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Authorities also measured the temperature inside the house and recorded it at 120 F (almost 49 C), though firefighters noted the home had already been open to South Carolina’s cold weather for about 20 minutes when the temperature was measured.

When they entered the basement, where the home’s heater was, one firefighter said in the police report that the area was “so hot it looked as if the basement was currently on fire.”

Officials deactivated the heater.

Spartanburg County coroner Rusty Clevenger on Monday told the South Carolina news station WYFF that the couple’s cause of death had not yet been determined.

Police have said there are no signs of struggle or foul play.

The Spartanburg Fire Department verified there was no evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning in the residence.

Family members of Littlejohn and Fowler said they visited the home on Jan. 3 after the older couple complained their house was too cold. The family tinkered with the home’s gas heater and gas hot water heater. They noticed the pilot light on the hot water heater was out, but after a bit of “fiddling,” it turned on when a family member moved a wire, police reported.

The investigation is ongoing.

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The average human body temperature should sit around 37 C (98.6 F). A temperature above 38 C (100.4 F) is often indicative of infection or illness.

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