Arson suspected in Upstate house fire that killed man, grandson


OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Officials are investigating a deadly house fire that claimed the lives of a man and his grandson on Saturday night.

Cody Smith is a family member and says, “ they were two of the best people I’ve been lucky enough to know”

Oconee County firefighters responded to the blaze just before midnight on Hidden Valley Road.

Crews arrived to find the home engulfed in flames and the family saying that two people were still inside.

Firefighters worked for nearly 30 minutes to get the fire under control, officials said. One person was treated on scene and taken by EMS to an Oconee Hospital. 

Once the fire was out, emergency officials said the remains of two people were found inside the home. Cody said “ we all panicked. we all knew that papa was still inside in the bed asleep. I was trying to bust through the window here to get Papa out.”

The coroner identified the victims as 75-year-old Winfred Lee Dills and 25-year-old Daniel Lee Ayers.

According to the coroner, both men lived at the home and were grandfather and grandson.

Dills was discovered dead in his bedroom. Ayers reportedly entered the home through a back door in an attempt to rescue his grandfather.

Cody said, “Didn’t know he had run into the back to try to get him and neither one of them came out.”

Ayers was discovered near the back door, the coroner said. Cody says, “he was definitely a hero it didn’t even take a thought for him….that was him.”

On Tuesday, an autopsy was performed on both Dills and Ayers.

Coroner Karl Addis said the autopsies confirmed that each man died from smoke/soot inhalation and thermal injuries from the fire.

Their manner of death is pending a fire and law enforcement investigation at this time.

The cause and origin of the fire remains under investigation by the Oconee County Fire, Oconee County Sheriff’s Department officials and SLED.

The incident is being investigated as possible arson, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies ask anyone with information about the fire to call the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at (864) 638-4111. An anonymous cash reward is being offered for any tip leading to an arrest in the case.

To leave an anonymous tip by phone call, Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (888-724-6372), by web at and click “submit a new tip”, or via mobile phone by downloading the P3 Tips App on your Apple or Android Device.

Credit: Oconee County Emergency Services)

(This story has been updated to reflect a correction from the Oconee Co. Coroner’s Office regarding the age of Daniel Lee Ayers.)

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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