22 July 2014
A strange series of events unfolded in just the wrong way to cause Brandon Chad Bruce’s accidental death in a July 3 car fire, Fluvanna County investigators have determined.
Their conclusions are based on their own investigative work, the findings of arson investigators, the findings of the medical examiners’ office in Richmond and some educated guesses.
According to investigators:
In the wee hours of July 3, Bruce headed to his Rising Sun Road home from a neighbor’s house, in his grandmother’s car. But in the course of navigating the winding road in the dark, two of the car’s tires ran off the side, causing the vehicle to jump a driveway, strike a metal culvert, snap a mailbox post, and plow through a ditch.
He was able to spin the car’s tire enough to get out of the ditch and make it home – only 350 yards away – and park the car exactly where his grandmother had left it.
Though the damage to the 1995 Lexus looked minor, it was in fact deadly.
The bottom of the car was banged up by the accident. The exhaust system was damaged. Some wiring under the car was broken and later showed signs of an electrical short. Even the fuel line was damaged. It’s possible that something in the car began to smolder before Bruce even made it home.
“If hot fuel or hot brake fluid spatters on a hot object, like the exhaust system, it will ignite,” said Lt. David R. Wells, who investigated the case. “We’ve even seen weeds catch fire during a spin-out.”