Woman burned to death on front porch, neighbors tried to help


Kendall Downing

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. — When neighbors saw the flames coming from 78-year-old Nadine Switlik's mobile home Monday afternoon, they knew she was in trouble.

Neighbors told us Switlik has some problems walking and there was a good chance she was trapped inside her West Frankfort home.

When rescue crews got on the scene, they thought the home was on fire. That's the same thing neighbors believed until they walked up to the porch.

"I wanted to try and get her out," said Gary Shoemaker, Switlik's neighbor.

Shoemaker knew he had to do something.

"I saw the porch was on fire, blazing pretty big at the trailer," said Shoemaker.

In the more than 20 years he's lived on his street, he's never dealt with anything like this.

"I thought, 'My God, Nadine's in that trailer,'" he said, "I ran over there and ran in the front door and went through there hollering for her but didn't see her."

Those efforts to save his neighbor Nadine fell short.

"I had walked by the chair because the fire was blinding. And I didn't see. I couldn't see anybody," he said.

Switlik's body was found on the porch in a swing. She'd been overtaken by the flames.

"I saw her in the chair," he said.

Family members spent Monday morning at the scene cleaning up, getting rid of all signs of what happened.

They had questions for Gary Shoemaker about those final moments, the end of Nadine Switlik's life.

"I was upset. I didn't get a lot of sleep," said Shoemaker.

It's something Shoemaker said will stick with him forever.

The Franklin County Coroner said early autopsy results show Switlik died of smoke inhalation.

The State Fire Marshal's office ruled the fire accidental. A spokesperson said there was evidence of smoking material at the scene that caused the fire.

Switlik's family members said she was a heavy smoker.