Man charged with arson
Fire causes $100K damage to Main Street motel
A fire that caused $100,000 in damage to a Main Street motel last week was intentionally set and came after an earlier disturbance at the motel, officials said.
The fire was reported around 10:45 p.m. Dec. 7, but police were first called to the Super 8 at 268 E. Main Street an hour earlier for a noise complaint, according to Newark Police Department spokesman Lt. Andrew Rubin.
According to court documents, the man was drunk and throwing bottles in his room.
Police warned the man to be quiet and left, but later were called back to the same room for another noise complaint. When officers arrived, they looked through a window and saw fire in the room. They broke out the window and rescued the man, who was lying on the bed, Rubin said.
As other officers evacuated the rest of the motel and alerted the fire department, police led the shirtless man away in handcuffs. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for cuts and smoke inhalation.
NPD turned the investigation over to the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office, which charged the man, Larry E. O’Neal Jr., 44, of Wilmington, with first-degree arson and first-degree reckless endangering.
A witness who was staying in the room next to O’Neal’s later told investigators he heard O’Neal say, “I’m going to burn this down,” prior to the fire.
O’Neal was committed to the Howard Young Correctional Institute in lieu of a $10,000 secured bond.
Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said O’Neal purposely ignited items inside the room but declined to provide additional details.
The fire, which eventually spread to the roof, damaged two second-floor rooms, and two rooms underneath of them sustained water damage. The motel does not have a sprinkler system, according to Deputy Chief A.J. Schall, of Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company.
Approximately 60 firefighters from seven fire departments responded to the scene and worked for approximately two hours. Main Street was closed for three hours, and the Newark Public Works Department was called in to treat the road for ice caused by water from the fire hoses.
While the fire was contained to the rear of the motel, the city fire marshal ruled the building uninhabitable as of Dec. 7, Schall said. The American Red Cross assisted affected guests.
Police lead a handcuffed Larry E. O’Neal Jr. away from the fire scene at the Super 8 motel on Main Street on Dec. 7.