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Las Vegas visionary Tony Hsieh: Mystery surrounds deadly fire

These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
These are photos provided by New London, CT authorities showing the damage left behind by a fire inside a shed that left Tony Hsieh gravely injured.
Posted at 6:19 AM, Mar 02, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The final moments and what was going on in the mind of Las Vegas visionary Tony Hsieh will likely never be known, leaving investigators to piece together what they found at the fire scene in New London, Connecticut.

According to the reports, it is possible that Hsieh’s carelessness or intentional acts may have started the fire in the shed where he was found.

RELATED: Tony Hsieh, former Zappos CEO, passes away at 46

On the banks of the Thames River, about a two-hour drive from New York City, is the home of Rachel Brown, Tony Hsieh's longtime friend and coworker at Zappos.

According to investigators, Hsieh and others had returned from a trip to Puerto Rico and, on the night of Nov. 17, 2020, there was an argument between Hsieh and the homeowner.

READ ALL THE STORIES: Tony Hsieh: The Rise, the Fall, the Future

Hsieh did not stay in the luxury, five-bedroom house, instead relocating to an attached shed at the rear of the home.

"My understanding of why he went into the shed that night was because he had an argument with the owner of the home and then he left the home and went outside," said New London Connecticut Fire Marshal Vernon Skau during a Jan. 26 news conference.

Hsieh's staff grew concerned for his safety as temperatures dipped around the freezing mark.

According to records obtained by 13 Investigates, staff checked on Hsieh while he was in the shed and noticed a candle had caught a small portion of a blanket on fire inside the shed, which Hsieh was able to extinguish himself.

Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 18, staff checked on Hsieh again and noticed he'd lit a plastic zip lock bag on fire inside the shed.

According to investigators, an exterior security camera recorded video of the interaction between Hsieh and his staff.

"You're going to smoke yourself out," staff told Hsieh.

"That's poison," they added.

"It's poisonous, but I used it to light a fire," Hsieh replied.

"In the conversation he had with his staff, they brought in a heater because they thought he lit the fire to keep warm," explained Fire Marshal Skau.

Fire officials say a propane heater, which gave off tasteless, odorless and, in large doses, lethal carbon monoxide, was brought into the confined shed to keep Hsieh warm.

"It's an inappropriate place to use that," explained Fire Marshal Skau.

"Those particular heating units, just from the nature of how they combust the propane, will produce carbon monoxide, so using it in an un-vented area could be dangerous," Skau added.

According to investigators, staff began checking on Hsieh every 10 minutes.

At 3:15 a.m., the exterior security camera picks up light smoke wisping from the shed door.

The camera catches Hsieh, at first, placing the propane heater outside of the shed, but moments later, he brings the heater back inside the shed and shuts the door.

The report indicates a latching sound can be heard as the shed's locking mechanism was activated from within.

At this point, thicker smoke and burning embers can be seen, according to the report.

At 3:20 a.m., Hsieh's brother Andrew knocks on the shed door and tells Tony it is time to leave for a trip to Maui, Hawaii.

Tony tells Andrew to come back in five minutes.

Andrew returns inside the residence.

A minute later, the report indicates a carbon monoxide alarm within the shed begins to sound.

At 3:22 a.m., the propane tank can be heard hissing and venting the pressurized gas.

At 3:24 a.m., Andrew and staff realize there's a fire and the rescue attempt begins.

911 calls obtained by 13 Investigates indicate the calls for help went from calm to increasingly frantic.

"We need help as soon as possible, someone is locked in a room and there's a fire," said a female voice over the phone to an operator.

"Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, they really need help, is there a code to the storage room? Tony is locked in there," the same female voice can be heard on the recording.

Seconds later, the call turns to panic.

"Please, hurry up, please hurry up, this is urgent, this is really urgent," the female voice said, followed by unintelligible crying.

An additional 911 call was placed by Hsieh's traveling nurse.

"We are not getting a response from him, we're not getting a response from him!" said the nurse to an operator.

"Who is he?" asked the operator.

"His name is Tony. I am actually a nurse that travels with him and gives him an IV," explained the nurse.

Police body camera obtained by 13 Investigates shows smoke poured out of the shed once the door was broken open.

Hsieh can be seen being pulled from the fire.

He was rushed to a hospital and then flown to another facility.

He died on Nov. 27.

The report notes Hsieh was found approximately 3 feet from the shed door, and inside were several Whip-it brand nitrous oxide chargers, a whipped cream dispenser, a marijuana pipe and Fernet Branca liqueur bottles, as well as several candles.

"The interviews with the witnesses said that Tony does enjoy candles, and that's been well-reported. It reminds him of a simpler time in his life, is the common trend on the answer," Skau explained.

The report concludes the fire cause is undetermined, with four possible explanations.

RELATED: Mystery continues to loom over the death of Tony Hsieh

"There are four possible scenarios that could've developed this fire," Skau said, "the first being a carelessly discarded smoking material; second, there was a propane heater being used near the origin that was close to combustibles; third, there were candles in the area of fire origin that could've caused a fire, and fourth, there could've been a careless act or even an intentional act by Mr. Hsieh."

New London Police do not intend to file criminal charges, but authorities say if new information comes to light that decision might change.

Authorities notes it could be possible, given the evidence at the scene, that Hsieh might have been intoxicated or impaired, and that might have prevented him from escaping the fire.

A toxicology report is still pending from the medical examiner.

Authorities say Hsieh died as a result of complications from smoke inhalation.

RELATED: Artist Jewel says she 'lost dear friend Tony Hsieh'

RELATED: Cause of death released for former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

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