NEWS

Woman dies, suspicious fire probed in Rockland

Andrew Lightman

Investigators are delving into the death of a woman who was found unconscious in her Rockland home moments before an explosion that injured three firefighters.

Kerrin M. Kelly-Nelson, 42, a dispatcher for Weymouth police, was pronounced dead at Brockton Hospital Wednesday after firefighters carried her out of her home at 248 Centre Ave. at about 4:30 p.m. and attempted to revive her.

‘‘An autopsy will determine the victim’s cause of death and whether it was caused by the fire,’’ said Bridget Norton Middleton, spokeswoman for Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz.

A neighbor said Nelson’s husband, Richard Nelson, 45, was at the house after his wife was taken to the hospital and later went to Rockland police station to talk to officers.

Fire Chief J. Michael Sammon called the fire suspicious and said it started near or in a gas stove in the first-floor kitchen. A propane tank left near the stove exploded moments after Fire Lt. Donald Hussey and Firefighters Tom Heaney and Mike Tracy got into the house through the rear kitchen door.

When the propane exploded - the tank was the size usually used with outdoor grills - it filled the kitchen with fire.

One firefighter jumped out a window to avoid the flames. The other two rushed back out of the door.

‘‘I saw it. I just yelled at the firefighters to get out,’’ Sammon said. ‘‘I saw the ball of flame, and I thought I was going to lose three firefighters.’’

The three were treated at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and released Wednesday night.

All three firefighters ran back into the house and found Nelson in a second-floor bedroom. She was unconscious.

Amy Dalton, a neighbor, said rescue workers tried to revive Nelson with CPR for several minutes.

Dalton called Nelson ‘‘a wonderful woman’’ and said she has a daughter serving in the Army in Iraq.

‘‘They were both very nice - they were always out in the yard, quick to offer a soda to the neighbors,’’ Dalton said of the Nelsons.

Real estate records show that Nelson and her husband bought their Centre Avenue home for $290,000 in late 2004.

‘‘The cause of the fire is under investigation,’’ Sammon said. ‘‘This is a crime scene.’’

Weymouth Police Capt. Brian Callahan, who went to the Rockland fire scene last night, said Nelson had worked as a dispatcher on the day shift for the police department for the past 10 years.

"Kerrin was just a great person -- she had a good sense of people, common sense, she was always trying to be helpful," he said. "The dispatchers work in close quarters and don't get much of a break. They are like a family around here, a close-knit group, and people are pretty upset here today. It's a real tragedy."

Staff reporter Sue Scheible contributed to this report.

Andrew Lightman may be reached at alightman@ledger.com.

The Patriot Ledger