Menu

Religion

Officials: Burning man ran into Ocean City church rectory, causing fire that killed pastor

  • Burning-church-fire.jpg

    Nov. 26, 2013: Ocean City firefighters enter St. Paul's By The Sea Episcopal Church as flames roll up the wall of the rectory, in Ocean City, Md.The Associated Press

  • 05dcb659f3a54027440f6a7067005140.jpg

    Diane Savage is consoled by Bruce Young in front of St. Paul's By The Sea Episcopal Church, in Ocean City, Md., Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Authorities say two people are dead and another suffered life-threatening injuries after a fire broke out in the rectory of the church. (AP Photo/Salisbury Daily Times, Grant L. Gursky) NO SALESThe Associated Press

  • 47423125f6644d27440f6a7067002537.jpg

    In this Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010 photo, Father David Dingwall poses for a photo at Saint Paul's By The Sea Episcopal Church in Ocean City, Md. The Episcopal Diocese of Easton says Dingwall is one of two people that died after a fire broke out in the rectory of the church on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. A third person suffered life-threatening injuries. (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Eric Doerzbach) NO SALESThe Associated Press

  • c4d10266f3a04027440f6a706700734b.jpg

    A bystander reacts to the scene unfolding at St. Paul's By The Sea along Baltimore Avenue, in Ocean City, Md., Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Authorities say two people are dead and another suffered life-threatening injuries after a fire broke out in the rectory of the church. (AP Photo/Salisbury Daily Times, Grant L. Gursky) NO SALESThe Associated Press

  • f7500a7bf3a24027440f6a7067002fed.jpg

    Ocean City firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the rectory of St. Paul's By The Sea Episcopal Church, in Ocean City, Md., Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Authorities say two people are dead and another suffered life-threatening injuries after a fire broke out in the rectory of the church. (AP Photo/Salisbury Daily Times, Grant L. Gursky) NO SALESThe Associated Press

A man ran into the rectory of an Episcopal church with his clothes on fire, causing a blaze that killed himself and the church's pastor, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators believe that John Sterner, 56, was covered in a flammable substance when he entered the building Tuesday morning, which caused the fire to spread quickly, according to a news release from town officials. But the cause of the fire remained under investigation, and authorities had not reached any conclusions about how Sterner came to be on fire.

The pastor, the Rev. David Dingwall, died at a hospital after the fire. A woman who volunteers at the church was critically injured and was being treated at a burn center in Baltimore.

The Rev. Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton said the man later identified as Sterner "ran in screaming for help. He hugged one of the volunteers there, an adult female whose clothes were also ignited."

"This is just such a bizarre incident," Cook said. "It's bad enough to lose somebody, but right before Thanksgiving through a bizarre kind of fire, people are stunned. It's not just the parish. It's the whole Ocean City community. People are aghast."

Dingwall was a native of Canada who moved to Maryland's Eastern Shore in 2003 and became rector of St. Paul's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in 2005. Although the building was once the church rectory, Dingwall did not live there, Cook said. It housed a food bank and church offices.

Cook said that according to witnesses, Dingwall was stricken by smoke and heat after he tried to retrieve his computer from the burning building. He was unconscious when firefighters retrieved him from the second floor, authorities said.

There was little damage to the church itself.

Sterner has a lengthy criminal history that includes arrests for offenses including assault, breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property, and he's been convicted of drug possession and possessing an open container of alcohol in public, according to online court records.

Bank Rates

Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
30 Y Fixed Graph 4.30% dw 4.43%  
15 Y Fixed Graph 3.30% up 3.27%  
30 Y Fixed Jumbo Graph 4.60% up 4.57%  
5/1 ARM Graph 3.34% dw 3.46%  
5/1 Jumbo ARM Graph 3.58% up 3.51%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
$30K HELOC Graph 4.38% dw 4.47%  
$50K HELOC Graph 4.11% dw 4.17%  
$30K Loan Graph 4.99% dw 5.11%  
$50K Loan Graph 4.40% dw 4.56%  
$75K Loan Graph 4.40% dw 4.51%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
36 M New Graph 2.90% dw 2.91%  
36 M Used Graph 3.40% dw 3.44%  
48 M New Graph 3.16% dw 3.19%  
48 M Used Graph 2.90% dw 2.97%  
60 M New Graph 3.17% dw 3.22%  
Loan Type Graph Yield +/- Last Week
6 month Graph 0.35% up 0.34%  
1 yr Graph 0.67% dw 0.68%  
5 yr Graph 1.38% -- 1.38%