Man dies while saving others

Staff WriterSeptember 17, 2006 

— Robert Curtis McCarty, father of a 4-year-old daughter, found out Tuesday that his fiancee's pregnancy would bring him a son.

But early Saturday, he died in a fire while rushing Lauren Massey, who is six months along, and two others out of a burning house on Jordan Woods Drive.

"Lauren said that he shoved her down the stairs, pretty much, and he was like 'Go, go, go go!' " her cousin Chet Massey said Saturday.

"She jetted out the house. She turned around and thought, 'Where is he at?' They never saw him again, so they don't know what he did," Massey said.

Lauren Massey's younger brother and another teenage boy also survived the blaze.

District Fire Chief Allen Dudley of the Garner Fire Department confirmed that four people were in the house when it caught fire at 6:38 a.m., and that a man died. "The fiancee was taken to the hospital for shock after she was told he didn't make it," Dudley said. "The cause is still under investigation."

The flames created a glow in the small Jordan Woods subdivision at dawn Saturday, and a faint burning smell lingered at dusk.

On Saturday afternoon, McCarty's uncle backed a trailer down the driveway to retrieve his nephew's tools and beloved Suzuki motorcycle.

The house is owned by Lauren Massey's mother, Pamela Strickland. She closed on it a year ago, and the family moved in October. Strickland was not home during the fire.

The two-story, wood-frame house is nestled among farms, winding country roads and grazing cows and horses near the Johnston County line. Buying the house was an exciting move up for Strickland, a single mother who had been living in a double-wide mobile home, her cousin said.

Chet Massey thinks the fire started on the porch or in the kitchen, the areas most seriously damaged.

McCarty, 28, who went by Curtis, dropped out of Fuquay-Varina High School more than a decade ago, but the motorcycle enthusiast made a name for himself as a master carpenter.

"He trimmed new homes, he built bookcases, he built bars in houses, he laid hardwood floors -- anything he wanted to with some wood," his mother, Diana McCarty, said of her only child. "He was self-taught, because he didn't go to school for any of this stuff. I was amazed at what he could do."

One of his next projects was redoing the kitchen of his mother's Willow Spring home.

At first, times were tough. As a novice at construction and business, he bid too low on jobs because he didn't want to overcharge people and ended up losing money, his mother said. Over the years, peers, mentors and experience taught him to bid to give the customer a good deal and make a profit. Late Saturday, she flipped through a scrapbook of pictures of his handiwork. "He finally was getting his footing and making something of himself," she said.

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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