Two people died in a fire that swept through a house in west Bethesda yesterday morning. Fire officials said they found 34-year-old William Cole Brannock and his 7-year-old daughter Antara Hill Brannock dead in the wreckage of the caved-in second floor after a difficult search through the flames.
Montgomery County fire department spokesman Ray Mulhall said the fire apparently had been blazing for some time at 9512 Nowell Dr. before firefighters were called at 6:13 a.m. One of two bedrooms on the second floor had already collapsed to the ground when they arrived, Mulhall said, and the second bedroom was still in flames. He said fire officials, who have not yet discovered the cause of the fire, assume the two victims were in the bedrooms when the fire started.
The fallen floors made it difficult for firefighters to get into the house to battle the flames and search for occupants, Mulhall said, and it was "a good deal of time" before the bodies were found.
"We quickly tried to do a search," he said. "But the only area we had access to was part of the downstairs and some of the upstairs living area. We didn't find anybody . . . . We kept looking and searching as we were firefighting."
Mulhall said firefighters eventually discovered William Brannock in an area where the ground floor had started to collapse into the basement. He said firefighters later found the daughter on the ground floor.
One neighbor said William Brannock was a certified massage therapist and worked in the Tysons Corner area in Virginia. He was divorced, the neighbor said, and had lived in the home with his daughter, who attended Wyngate Elementary School in Bethesda, for about a year and a half.