The latest entrant for the Darwin Awards is a hapless guy who got stuck Saturday in the chimney of the Central California house he was apparently trying to burgle. The alleged effort turned fatal when the AP reports the homeowner lit a fire in the fireplace around 3pm; when the homeowner heard someone yell, he tried to put the fire out as the house filled with smoke and called 911. Roughly 10 minutes after that call was placed, the man was still seemingly moving and breathing, per the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. Rescuers broke the Huron home's chimney apart with jackhammers, but the man was declared dead at the scene. The Fresno Bee reports that he was on Sunday night identified as Cody Caldwell; the 19-year-old died from smoke inhalation and thermal burns, per the county coroner.
"I've been a deputy for almost 17 years now, and I've never seen anything like this," Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Jensen tells KSEE. "Even the fire guys had never seen anything like this before." Officials think Caldwell tried to break in overnight Friday and became stuck; the homeowner had been away and returned to the home Saturday. KSEE reports some other homes in the neighborhood had been broken into recently, but no connection has been made with Caldwell and those crimes. Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Pursell tells the Bee that in addition to the smashed chimney, the Huron home was damaged by smoke. (Apparently, breaking in via chimney is a thing in California.)