Official: Car fire's cause unknown
EDGERTON The Edgerton couple who died in a car fire Tuesday had been at a New Year's gathering in McFarland, but there are no indications that drinking contributed to the deaths.
Brandon Slattery, 24, and Amy N. Damon, 21, both of Edgerton, left the gathering around 5 a.m. New Year's Day and drove about a block and a half, McFarland Police Chief Craig Sherven said.
Police were called about an hour later and found the older Pontiac Grand Am fully engulfed in flames, Sherven said. The couple's bodies were later found inside.
Investigators have found no indications of a traffic accident, Sherven said.
Damon and Slattery were engaged to be married, according to news reports. Friends declined to talk to The Gazette on Thursday, saying they were grieving.
The couple lived on the west side of Edgerton on Stonefield Drive. Slattery worked as a mechanic in Madison, neighbors said. Damon worked a second-shift job while taking courses on nursing.
Neighbor Jenn Herodes described the pair as friendly and kind people who helped neighbors shovel their snow.
Herodes said she knew the couple since 2011, when she moved into a house a few doors over.
Slattery and Damon did not have children but owned two dogs, neighbors said. They enjoyed letting neighborhood children pet them.
Once, when Herodes' own dog got loose in neighborhood, Damon ran out in the cold in her stocking feet to catch the dog, Herodes said.
Another time, she saw Slattery taking a neighbor's forgotten trash to the curb on garbage day.
"They were good people who just always did nice things," Herodes said. "You could tell they really wanted you to feel welcome here in the neighborhood."
The fire appeared to start in the front of the car, authorities said, but the cause remains unknown.
Sherven said he would not be saying more about the cause until he has a report from state fire marshals, who still are investigating the car. The report could be ready next week.
The Dane County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the deaths accidental.
"Our investigation to this point has revealed nothing to contradict that. It's likely that that's what it will end up being," Sherven said.
Sherven declined to characterize the gathering at a residence Monday night as a party.
Interviews have not indicated excessive drinking was a factor in the deaths, Sherven said. Toxicology reports won't be available for several weeks.
One neighbor, Jason Stengel, said he saw Slattery pull his pickup truck into the garage at 4 or 5 p.m. Monday afternoon. He later saw Damon and Slattery leaving the house in a car that he was not familiar with.
Slattery and Damon traveled with the car's owner from Edgerton to the New Year's Eve gathering, Sherven said. The owner decided to stay in McFarland, letting the couple drive back to Edgerton.
"For whatever reasons—we don't know why—they pulled over to side of road, and sometime shortly thereafter the fire would have started in the vehicle," Sherven said.