BARROW COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A decorated veteran who twice survived being wounded in the Vietnam War died early Monday morning in a house fire.
Barrow County firefighters said 71-year-old Duane Downey wasn’t able to escape from his second-floor bedroom when his home caught fire.
Firefighters responded to the Downey's home on Lokey’s Ridge Road in Bethlehem just after a 5 a.m. after a neighbor called 911 and reported a large blaze.
Crews attempted to go inside the home when they arrived but the fierce flames pushed them back.
Once they were able to put fire the fire out, firefighters found the body of Downey in a second story bedroom.
Family members told FOX 5’s Portia Bruner Sgt. Downey received two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze Stars for his four years of service in the Vietnam War.
"He was in the Airborne Division, hit with a rocket, blown up by a couple of grenades, shot multiple times and he came home and had the best attitude anyone could have expected him to have. He was a true American Hero," Downey's grandson Derrick Bozeman said standing in front of the charred frame of his grandfather's home.
Barrow County firefighters covered his body with an American flag and saluted as they removed his remains from his charred home.
"That's awesome I'm so glad they did that for him he was so proud of his service and I'm proud of him for being in the war, " daughter Vickie Downey said, who wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke to Bruner.
Barrow County EMS Captain Scott Dakin told Bruner his crew thought it was important to pay their final respects to such a highly decorated soldier.
"Because he was a veteran, we placed a flag over him and we did give him a military salute just because he paid a lot of debt for us," Dakin said.
By Monday afternoon, investigators determined the fire was accidentally ignited by a stove that was left in the 'on' position.