Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mentally challenged man dies in Levittown fire; grandfather saved

Firefighters found David McCardle, 29, in a second-floor bathtub. His grandfather was carried out of the burning house by a neighbor and is in critical condition

Mentally challenged man dies in Levittown fire; grandfather saved

Gallery: Mentally challenged man dies in Levittown fire; grandfather saved

A 29-year-old mentally challenged Levittown man died early Monday in a fire that quickly swept through his two-story house, but a neighbor rescued the victim’s elderly grandfather.

David McCardle’s body was found in the bathtub in the second-floor bathroom, said Levittown Fire Co.  No. 1 Chief Rich Vanschaick. The stairs to the second floor were gone when firefighters arrived minutes after receiving the 1:30 a.m. call, he said.

Jack McCardle, 87, was listed in critical condition in Temple University Hospital midday Monday. A hospital spokesman could not provide information about his injuries.

Jack McCardle was saved from the burning, smoke-filled house on Everturn Lane in Falls Township by Eric Watkins, who lives across the street.

“I heard a popping noise like firecrackers, woke up, put on shoes and called 911,” Watkins said hours after the blaze. “The right side of the house was in flames.”

Knowing the McCardles didn’t use the front door of their yellow, asbestos-tiled house, Watkins ran to the door to the screened-in porch, he said.

“I couldn’t see Jack” because of the thick, black smoke, Watkins said. “I just could hear him.

“All he said was, ‘David’s upstairs.’”

Watkins picked up the elderly man and carried him out of the house and across the street, where another neighbor, Ray McGrath, helped carry him into Watkins’ house.

“He was black” from the smoke, Watkins said.    

The two neighbors quickly returned to the burning house, “but there was nothing else we could do,” McGrath said. The first firefighters had arrived to find flames shooting out of every window and door, “and we asked, ‘Where is David?’ ” McGrath said. “Now we know where he was.”

Firefighters placed a ladder where the stairs had been and found David McCardle in the bathtub, the fire chief said.

“The bathtub is one of the safest places to be in a fire,” said Hailey Allard, 14, who is Watkins’ stepdaughter. She and other neighborhood children were collecting money for flowers for David McCardles’ funeral and for clothes for Jack McCardle.

Jack McCardle is an original homeowner in the Levittown development that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.  Neighbors said his driver’s license had been revoked, and David McCardle did not  drive, but three cars were parked in the driveway.

David McCardle was born and raised in the house, and he took care of his grandfather, neighbors said.

“He was able to do everything,” Watkins said. “I don’t think he could hold a job.”

David McCardle would play with the neighborhood children in the summer, Allard said, and he would walk to the nearby branch of the  Bucks County Library. He enjoyed playing computer games and going on Facebook, she said.     

The cause of the fire is under investigation, the fire chief said. Bristol Township Fire Marshal Kevin Dippolito said it started in overloaded electrical outlets in a first-floor television and computer room.

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About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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