CINCINNATI -- A woman found dead in a garage days after a fire simply "blended in" with the scene, Fire Chief Richard Braun said, making it nearly impossible for firefighters to see her.
Frances Johnson Gray's body was found on Dec. 2, a week after the fire at 1530 Franklin Ave.
Braun's explanation, released Monday in a memo to City Manager Harry Black, came a month after family members questioned why they were the ones to discover Gray's body.
"We’re a little confused as to why our family had to find her and a week later when they had told us they had been through the garage already," Gray's niece, Phyliss Flanagan, told WCPO in December. "So, we had been searching other areas of the house -- completely ignoring the garage -- searching the community. So we feel like someone really dropped the ball here."
Gray's family said she'd been missing since the Nov. 25 fire. Police sent out a "missing person" notice and posters were tacked to utility poles around the neighborhood.
Neighbor Darlene Robinson said she saw the 57-year-old Gray go into the house, but never saw her come out.
"I just wonder what happened to her," Robinson said. "I couldn't imagine her going off somewhere. I knew she was somewhere close."
The Hamilton County coroner confirmed Gray's cause of death was smoke inhalation.
Braun said firefighters followed their training and department procedures, and they just couldn't see Gray's body even after checking the scene three times.
"In reviewing statements of responding companies and the findings of the investigation team, it is my understanding that the body was positioned in such a way that it blended in with the environment of the fire area, making it virtually impossible to detect," Braun wrote. "While this is a very uncommon outcome, it is possible."