OCEAN CITY, Md. - Officials have released the name of the second victim in the fatal church fire in Ocean City Tuesday. The Ocean City Fire Department received a call for a fire at the St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church around 9:25 AM, and quickly responded to the scene at 302 Baltimore Avenue. Officials say they found flames coming from the rectory building.
Preliminary reports determined that the fire started on the ground floor pantry and porch of the Shepherd's Crook, in the rectory building. Officials say that the cause of the fire is still unknown under investigation, but investigators indicate that 56-year-old John Raymond Sterner, of Ocean City, he entered the building with his body doused in flames, which quickly spread to the building.
Officials believe an accelerant was used, because of how quickly the fire spread. Sterner was reportedly found dead inside of the building, upon the arrival of first responders.
According to the report, an adult woman was injured while trying to exit the Shepherd's Crook facility. She is still being treated at John's Hopkins Bayview Medical Center at this time. Her name is not being released. Church members say she was a volunteer at the Shepherd's Crook --St. Paul's food pantry.
"She was covered in black soot and her hair was singed it looked like. There were some burns," witness and general manager of Hotel Monte Carlo Don Bowden said.
The pantry provides hot coffee, a warm meal and clothing for those in need every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
"The fire completely devastated the Shepherd's Crook. Everything that was in there was destroyed," Deacon Penny Morrow said.
The Reverend of St. Paul's by the Sea was also reportedly killed in the blaze. Officials say Rev. David Dingwall, was found by firefighters on the second floor of the building, unconscious. He was quickly removed from the building, and transported to Atlantic General Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Reverend Dingwall began his ministry at the church eight years ago. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
"He had a great sense of humor. He had a twinkle in his eye. He was so compassionate and caring about people," Morrow said.
Officials say that the remains of both Rev. Dingwall and Sterner have been turned over to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland in Baltimore for autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death.
As the church and community members try to pick up the pieces, one of many questions on everyone's mind, is why?
"I know there's a lot of speculation out there, but until their investigation is complete, the cause is still unknown." Ocean City Spokesperson Jessica Waters said.
"It's changed our lives, but we will pull together," Morrow said.
The Ocean City, Worcester County, and Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office along with the Ocean City Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division are still investigating the cause of the fire at this time.
Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact the Ocean City Police Department at 410-723-6610. They are also looking for anyone with photos or videos taken before the arrival of the Fire Department.
For those looking to donate after yesterday's fatal fire at St. Paul's by the Sea in Ocean City, church members have put together a GiveForward page.
A prayer service will be held at St. Peter's Lutheran Church at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening. It's located at 10301 Coastal Highway in Ocean City, MD 21842. For more information, call 410-524-7474.
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