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CLEBURNE (CBSDFW.COM) – Cleburne firefighters say a paralyzed, retired Marine accidentally set himself on fire with a cigarette and died in the blaze despite his elderly mother’s best attempts to save him.

“I feel kind of bad, you know,” said Cleburne resident Robert Campbell, a friend of the victim. “It’s a hell of a situation for anyone to go through.”

Campbell was among the many people who stared in disbelief at the charred walls of their friend’s house.

Fifty-three year old Steve Doty was a former marine, paralyzed in an accident after he retired. A caretaker said he only had limited use of his arms.

“He’d look forward to going to the VA for respite care just to mingle with the other veterans and all,” Campbell said. “He was very proud Marine.”

This morning, his 73-year-old mother who takes care of him, woke to cries for help. A cigarette caught her son’s bed on fire and her son was soon covered in flames.

“Yeah, she tried getting him out but she was unable to,” Campbell said. “She’s elderly. He’s quite bulky and heavy. You know?”

Fire officials said oxygen bottles may also have ignited as the mother fled to safety.

“I told him it’s not good to smoke back here with his oxygen,” said Andy Wildhaber who knew Doty from childhood.

“I know he’s with the Lord now and that give me some comfort,” he said. “And him not having to suffer no more that gives me some peace too. Because it was hard seeing him like that you know?”

Despite his physical setbacks, friends say Doty was an inspiration.

“He didn’t have much but you know when I got down I go to see him,” Wildhaber said. “I wouldn’t be down long. Because he would pick me up. I don’t know what else to say about him, he was just a good person. I’m going to miss him man.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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