SHIPROCK — A teacher for the Central Consolidated School District was killed in a duplex fire early Tuesday morning.
Fire crews from the Shiprock and Valley fire departments were dispatched at 4:50 a.m. to the housing area provided for CCSD teachers and administrative personnel near Mesa Elementary School.
Tsé Bit'a'í Middle School athletic director Scott Schwarting was found dead inside the home.
Schwarting, 51, taught at the middle school since 2000. He started with CCSD in 1992 at Shiprock High School and then worked at Newcomb High School.
"He was a pillar for this school," Tsé Bit'a'í Middle School Principal Max Perez said.
Counselors met with teachers and students on Tuesday and will remain on campus, he said.
Health care professionals were also sent to Shiprock High School since many of the students there attend Tsé Bit'a'í Middle School and knew Schwarting, said CCSD spokesman James Preminger.
When fire crews arrived on scene early Tuesday morning, they found an active residential structure fire and used fire suppression and conducted a search and rescue operation, according to a news release from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.
Firefighters discovered that the fire extended to the attic of the duplex structure, and, during overhaul, they found Schwarting's body, according to the news release.
"He was found in the main living area of the duplex. According to our findings, it appears that the fire originated in the area," San Juan County Sheriff's Office Detective Tim Nyce said in the news release.
Further investigation by the sheriff's office and investigators from the San Juan County Fire Department revealed no signs of an accelerant and nothing to suggest foul play. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Law enforcement remained at the scene Tuesday afternoon and waited for the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator to transport the body.
Because it was an unattended death, the Office of the Medical Investigator transported the body to San Juan Regional Medical Center, where it will be determined if an autopsy is necessary, Nyce said.
The sheriff's office handled the investigation because Schwarting was a non-native, he said.
Preminger said the unit next door to Schwarting's sustained structural damage in the roof trusses, as well as smoke damage, and it is uninhabitable at this time.
CCSD Superintendent Don Levinski said in a press release that the district's prayers are with Schwarting's family, students and staff.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.