State fire officials are investigating a trailer fire in Montegut that took the life of one man and left another in critical condition late Wednesday night.
When Montegut firefighters responded to the scene at 11:23 p.m. the mobile home on 114 Reynolds St. was fully engulfed in flames, authorities said.
After entering the home, firefighters removed two men, identified as Ernest Paul Lebouef, 79, and 43-year-old Chad Michael LeBlanc. One of the men was found in a bathroom and the other was in a bedroom on the opposite side of the home, the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Office said.
Lebouef was pronounced dead at the hospital and LeBlanc was transported to West Jefferson Medical Center and remains in critical condition, authorities said.
Investigators believe the fire originated in the bedroom, but the exact cause remains under investigation.
Lebouef’s son, Mark Lebouef, speculated that space heaters may have been the culprit.
“He just got some space heaters,” Mark Lebouef said today as he and other family members somberly sifted through the charred rubble that once housed his father. “It was cold. That’s got to have something to do with it. They wouldn’t even have had those space heaters on had it not been for that freaky cold weather.”
Stacks of crab traps on the driveway reflected the life of the small-town fisherman who died. Charred Bible pages littered the front yard.
“He was a welder for over 20 years and decided one day he wanted to be his own boss and became a commercial fisherman,” said son Richard Lebouef, 43. “He started in a pirogue with six crab traps and paddled himself up and down the bayou. He added more and more and got to the point where he had hundreds of crab traps. He became known as the ‘Crab Man’ in Montegut.”
Neighbor Anthony Guidry, 59, said he had eaten spaghetti with Ernest Lebouef just hours before the deadly fire.
“We weren't related but he was like a grandpa to me,” Guidry said. “He was so sweet and kind. He offered me to eat with him yesterday. We ate spaghetti and whinnies and I told him that was the best spaghetti I’ve ever tasted. I told him I would see him tomorrow and that I loved him. Then this happened. We’re all going to miss him. That is a terrible way to die.”
Neighbor Samantha Chaisson was the first to see the fire outside her window.
“I was on the phone with my daughter and after I hung up I heard a loud explosion,” Chaisson said. “I saw the fire outside the window. I leave those blinds open all the time. I said, ‘Oh, my god, they got a fire at old man Lebouef’s.’ I tried to call 911 on my phone but my hands were shaking and accidently dialed 611. I was panicking. He was a good old man, he didn’t bother nobody.”
Montegut Fire Chief Toby Henry said the victims were well known throughout Montegut.
“It’s a small town, so everybody knows everyone,” Henry said. “One of the good things about working at a small local fire department is we know everybody, but the bad thing is when things like this happen it’s people we know too. So it can be hard.”
The Little Caillou Volunteer Fire Department, Bourg Volunteer Fire Department and Acadian Ambulance also responded to the scene.
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.