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Victim in car died of smoke inhalation

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By Tom Wilmoth

Police have yet to identify the person found dead inside a burned car off Ole Turnpike Road early last Wednesday morning, but the medical examiner's office has tapped smoke inhalation as the cause of death.

Bedford Police Chief Jim Day said the fire started as the result of a traffic accident.

Day said last week that apparently the driver of the vehicle left the road and traveled 200 feet into brush. Excessive speed might have been a factor, he said.

He said there wasn't any evidence of foul play involved.

Police are still waiting for DNA tests to officially identify the victim, though investigators believe they know who it is. Those tests could take as long as three weeks and toxicology tests could take up to six weeks.

The medical examiner's office tried to utilize dental and X-ray matches to identify the victim, but the condition of the body was so fragile that those tests proved futile.

Day said apparently the driver was incapacitated, following the accident, and the car caught fire. He said that probably occurred after the vehicle's catalytic converter came into contact with brush in the overgrown field where the vehicle came to rest.

There is no evidence at this point to make police believe that any event other than the accident led to the victim's death. He said the medical examiner didn't find any punctures or evidence of blunt force trauma.

The car was totally destroyed in the fire and the body of the victim was badly burned. The police have identified the owner of the vehicle. Day said the car, which was registered to an owner in Kentucky, had been on a long-term loan.

An overnight worker near the accident heard several pops and went out to find what had caused them, driving around, Day said. That worker saw the fire in the woods and called 911. By the time rescue crews arrived the car was fully involved in flames.

A Virginia State Police arson investigator assisted the Bedford Police with the investigation.

The call came in about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Bedford Police Department and Bedford Fire Department responded to Ole Turnpike Road in the city of Bedford regarding a possible explosion.

It was discovered that the vehicle had left the roadway and was on fire. While extinguishing the fire, firefighters found the body inside.

The Bedford Police Department is continuing the investigation.