By Bob Allen

NEW CASTLE (KDKA) – An early morning fire at an apartment in Lawrence County claimed the life of one man Saturday.

New Castle firefighters say the blaze started just after 5 a.m. in the 300-block of Phillips Street and was contained to a second-floor apartment.

After they put the fire out, crews found the body of an unidentified man inside.

“A single male, found in the southeast corner of the home that was an apartment building,” said Russell Noga, the Lawrence County Coroner. “He was by himself. It’s unknown at this time who he is or what his age is. There’s still an investigation.”

So far, the cause of death is unknown. No one is saying if the fire is suspicious, but police were back at the apartment later Saturday looking for a cause and gathering evidence.

A state police canine also searched the building.

Neighbors say they suspect drugs may have possibly been involved. They complained about around-the-clock activity at the apartment.

“There was a lot of traffic in and out of here,” said Mark Mason, one neighbor. “I even told my wife, I think they’re doing something over here.”

“It’s a drug house; that’s all that comes in and out of that particular house,” added Julie Romanelli, another neighbor. “The gentleman downstairs is a really nice guy, keeps to himself. I feel bad he’s disabled. Upstairs, it’s nothing but drug dealers.”

The man who uses a wheelchair who lived in the first-floor apartment got out safely.

KDKA’s Bob Allen reports that the landlord did not want to talk on camera, but he also complained about drug activity and was planning to evict the tenant.

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