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Tony Hsieh’s death ruled an accident, but investigation ongoing

Ex-Zappos Chief Executive Tony Hsieh died from complications of smoke inhalation in a death ruled an accident by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Monday, but police and the local fire marshal said an investigation into the death is active and ongoing.

Initial radio dispatches to law enforcement and medical technicians about 3:30 a.m. Nov. 18 contained reports of both a man trapped in a waterfront home on fire and of a man barricaded in a structure.

New London Capt. Brian Wright, the commander of investigative police services, said in a statement that people at the scene informed emergency personnel that a man, later identified as Hsieh, “was locked inside a storage area where smoke was coming out at the rear of the residence, and they were unable to get him out.”

Emergency personnel breached the storage area door, retrieved the victim and extinguished the fire.

Hsieh, 46, was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Bridgeport Hospital Burn Center for extensive medical care.

Investigators were notified Friday that Hsieh died at the hospital.

The police report on the incident was released Monday.

Hsieh had been in Connecticut with his brother, according to Megan Fazio, a spokeswoman for Hsieh’s business venture, DTP Companies.

The New London home, along the Thames River, is owned by Rachael Brown of Las Vegas, a longtime Zappos employee and a cellist with Nina Di Gregorio’s Bella Electric Strings ensemble and David Perrico’s Pop Strings orchestra.

She could not be reached for comment.

Brown’s neighbors were mum about the fire and police activity. A woman who answered next door politely declined to speak to a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter. The other neighboring home was dark and no one answered a knock.

The lights were on at Brown’s home, but furniture inside was covered and no one answered repeated knocks.

Across the street, a man told a reporter, nonchalantly: “I don’t know anything about those people.”

Asked if there were many people at the home the night of the fire, the man, who declined to identify himself, said that “it was quiet. I went to bed.”

Police investigators continue to examine the fire. It was unknown whether they were investigating the cause of the fire or other aspects about the location of the incident that found Hsieh inside a closed structure.

Wright said the fact-finding is continuing with the New London Fire Marshal’s Office and the New London Police Department’s Investigative Services Division.

Although Hsieh was a nationally known entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Las Vegas, he appeared to be little known in this region of Connecticut, a small port city with antique boutiques, pizza joints, marinas and a large U.S. Coast Guard presence due to a training base.

Hsieh is credited with helping to transform downtown Las Vegas. The Downtown Project, funded in part by Hsieh’s millions from his sale of Zappos to Amazon and loans to small businesses, helped build up areas that were obscured in the shadow of the Strip’s neon glare.

“Tony Hsieh’s vision and generosity made Las Vegas more exciting, more vibrant, and more of a community,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., whose congressional district includes the Strip and downtown.

“I will miss seeing him around town, and I send my condolences to his family and friends,” Titus told the Review-Journal.

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