New details in death investigation of Fairlee man killed in car fire

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THETFORD — Police say the death of a 53-year-old Fairlee man following a car fire on Sunday was due to smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

Brian Stephens was found dead next to a vehicle that caught fire off U.S. Route 5 in Thetford.

The vehicle was located partially in the woods near the intersection with Sanborn Road.

Police say the manner of death has been ruled an accident.

According to the police report, Stephens was driving home alone from a party in a 2014 Kia Optima when he left the road while trying to negotiate a turn.

The vehicle eventually became stuck off the east side of the road.

Police say he attempted to drive the vehicle back onto the road, but the front tires were stuck in the soft ground and snow.

A fire began within the engine compartment, spreading into the passenger and storage compartments of the vehicle.

Stephens was able to exit the vehicle but died from his injuries.

State police say alcohol impairment was a factor in the incident.