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Police ID man killed in car fire

Lance Wheeler/For Columbia-Greene MediaThe charred remains of a car fire that killed a man and a dog on North Mountain Road in the town of Copake early Friday morning. The fire is under investigation, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office said.
June 19, 2019 06:02 pm

COPAKE — Not much is known about the night Rudy Martinez died in a car fire at his home on North Mountain Road.

Martinez, 32, and his dog, perished in his 2006 Volkswagen that caught fire early Friday.

An autopsy performed by Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady found that Martinez’s death was caused by an inhalation of fire gases. But little is known about how the fire started or why Martinez and his dog were unable to escape the blaze.

The damage and devastation from the fire was so great that not much evidence could be gleaned from the charred remains, Senior Investigator Kevin Skype said Wednesday.

Martinez lived with a roommate at the 543 North Mountain Road address where the car was found parked in the driveway. Martinez was a farmhand who had lived in the area for about a year.

After speaking with people who knew Martinez, it was not unusual for him to sit in his car and listen to the radio from time to time, Skype said.

So far, police have ruled the fire is not suspicious, but an exact cause can’t be determined at this time due to the extensive damage.

It would be reasonable to assume the car was on that the time of the fire, Skype said. But, beyond that, police don’t know what exactly Martinez was doing in the vehicle at the time the fire started.

“It’s a tragedy,” Skype said.

The investigation is continuing and sheriff’s investigators are awaiting lab and toxicology reports before making their final report.

The fire is under investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Columbia County Cause and Origin Team.

Columbia County 911 dispatched Hillsdale Fire Company and Community Rescue Squad for a reported vehicle fire in a driveway at 543 North Mountain Road in Copake around midnight last Friday. Sheriff’s deputies also responded to assist the fire company.

Investigating at the scene for the Sheriff’s Office were Bartlett, Undersheriff John Davi, Capt. John DeRocha, Skype, Investigator William Dunspaugh, Investigator Ian Boehme, First Sgt. John Rivero, K-9 Sgt. Heath Benansky, Deputy Daniel Keyser and Deputy Matthew Leonard.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.