By Kathryn G. Menu; Photo by Michael Heller (above)
Wesley Howard Carrion, a World War II veteran who was part of the “Red Ball Express” operation, perished after a fire at his Hillside Drive East, Sag Harbor home Monday afternoon.
He was 90 years old.
According to Sag Harbor Village Police Sergeant Paul Fabiano, the Suffolk County Police Department Arson Squad investigated the fire and determined the origin was electrical in nature and classified the incident as accidental.
A medical examiner has yet to determine the cause of Mr. Carrion’s death, said Sgt. Fabiano.
Beloved in his Sag Harbor Hills neighborhood, it was a neighbor who called 911 after seeing smoke emanating from Mr. Carrion’s residence. Sag Harbor Police Detective Jeffrey Proctor and officer Robert Drake arrived at the scene about one minute after the call came in, said Sgt. Fabiano. Able to see the fire actively working in the front bedroom, Sgt. Fabiano said his officers were unable to make entry into the residence due to smoke and high heat.
According to Sgt. Fabiano, Mr. Carrion was not in the room that was fully engaged when police arrived on the scene.
The Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the scene with the East Hampton Fire Department and the East Hampton Fire Marshall also responding. Within minutes of arriving, Sgt. Fabiano said Sag Harbor firefighters were able to contain the fire to the room it originated in, however, Mr. Carrion was found unresponsive in another room of the home.
Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps volunteers performed CPR on Mr. Carrion who Sgt. Fabiano said exhibited a pulse before being transferred to Southampton Hospital were he was declared deceased.
While alone in the house at the time of the fire, according to his daughter, Robyn Hagans, Mr. Carrion was regularly visited by friends in the neighborhood, as well as family, including his son-in-law Andres Bedini who owns Java Nation in Bridgehampton with Mr. Carrion’s other daughter, Cheryl.
The home was Mr. Carrion’s full time residence since 1984 when he retired as a New York City probation officer, said Hagans, but was a part of his life since the mid 1950s, when he and his wife, Lois, bought the bungalow after visiting friends who summered in the enclave.
Mr. Carrion was also a World War II veteran and part of the Red Ball Express, according to his son, Dr. Wesley V. Carrion. The Red Ball Express, largely operated and driven by African American soldiers, was a truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces with fuel and supplies as General George Patton made his way across France and into Germany. Mr. Carrion was one of its drivers.
After the war, he would go to college, his son said, but he returned to the Army, later retiring as a major.
“He didn’t talk about the war a lot, but he was very proud to serve in the Army,” said Dr. Carrion.
Mr. Carrion also loved his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, and playing the game of bridge.
“He was very good to his grandchildren, who he loved very much,” added Hagans.
For Dr. Carrion, his father’s voice is one of many things that will always stay with him.
“His voice made you think the heavens had opened and someone was coming to get you,” said Dr. Carrion.
Beloved not only by his family, but the community that surrounded him, on Wednesday neighbors were still dealing with the news that Mr. Carrion was gone.
“He was my friend. We fought like cats and dogs,” said Eunice Jackie Vaughn, a neighbor and president of the board of the Eastville Community Historical Society.
The two also played bridge together.
“He was very active, as we all were, in the local Sag Harbor Hills Association,” said Vaughn, adding whenever there was work to be done in the community, Mr. Carrion was there to pitch in.
“As I said, that was Wes,” said Vaughn. “He’ll be remembered. I will remember him.”
Mr. Carrion is survived by his three children, Robyn, Wesley and Cheryl, as well as seven grandchildren. According to the family, interment will be privately held with a memorial planned for a later date.
Additional reporting by Tessa Raebeck