Questions swirl as Zappos founder Tony Hsieh's death investigation moves ahead

Reports varied as to whether he was 'trapped' or instead 'barricaded,' according to recordings  

The death of Zappos founder and retired CEO Tony Hsieh, who succumbed to his injures nine days after an early morning fire at a Connecticut waterfront home, remains under investigation as questions linger.

Hsieh, 46, died on Friday at a local hospital where he had been taken in the hours following the Nov. 18 blaze. On Monday, the state’s office of the chief medical examiner ruled the death accidental and caused by smoke inhalation.

Praise, fond memories, and condolences flooded in from celebrities, C-suite executives and public officials.

But questions about his death remain.

ZAPPOS FOUNDER TONY HSIEH DIED FROM SMOKE INHALATION, MEDICAL EXAMINER SAYS

In this Sept. 30, 2013, file photo, Tony Hsieh speaks during a Grand Rapids Economic Club luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

In this Sept. 30, 2013, file photo, Tony Hsieh speaks during a Grand Rapids Economic Club luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

Hsieh was on the property of a three-story, New London, Conn., house at the time of the approximately 3:30 a.m. blaze. While others were able to get out in time, the former tech exec was inside a “shed that’s attached to the exterior of the house” and did not, or could not, escape, according to police and fire radio recordings.

Reports have varied as to whether he was “trapped” or if he was instead “barricaded,” both of which are descriptions provided in the recordings from responders at the scene.  

“The male is barricaded inside,” one person can be heard saying in the recording that was archived by Broadcastify. “He’s not answering the door. Everyone else is outside the house they’re trying to get him to open up.”

“The male is barricaded inside"

— Police and fire radio recordings from Nov. 18 fire at 500 Pequot Avenue, New London, Conn., via Broadcastify 

On Monday, the New London Police Department released details about the way in which Hsieh was found, describing how they initially received a report of “a structure fire with a person trapped inside.”

“Upon arrival on the scene, emergency service personnel observed dark smoke emanating from the back of the residential structure,” police said. “Individuals at the scene informed emergency personnel that a man, who was later identified as Anthony 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.”

First responders were able to break the storage room door and pulled Hsieh from inside, police said. He was first taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital before being relocated to Bridgeport Hospital’s Burn Center, where he ultimately died.

The New London Fire Marshal’s Office and the New London Police Department’s Investigative Services Division are investigating the case and had not released any additional information as of noon eastern time Tuesday.  

TONY HSIEH, RETIRED ZAPPOS CEO, DIES AT 46

The Wall Street Journal reported the $1.3 million waterfront property on Pequot Avenue was owned by Rachael Brown, which is also the name of a Zappos employee who is “among his closest confidants,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Local affiliate FOX61 cited sources in reporting that Hsieh bought the home for Brown in August. The news station spoke with one of Hsieh’s assistants, Anthony Hebert, who said his boss was in town with relatives and his “soulmate,” but did not provide additional details.

In this May 21, 2008, file photo, Marie J. Toulantis, CEO of Barnes & Noble.com; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com; Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM Interaction Worldwide; Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corp.; Matt Ackley, VP of Internet Marketing and Advertising, eBay Inc.; Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com; and Jim Barr, President, Online, Sears Holdings, pose for a photo. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

In this May 21, 2008, file photo, Marie J. Toulantis, CEO of Barnes & Noble.com; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com; Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM Interaction Worldwide; Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corp.; Matt Ackley, VP of Internet Marketing and Advertising, eBay Inc.; Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com; and Jim Barr, President, Online, Sears Holdings, pose for a photo. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

The Daily Mail reported that one of his brothers was staying in the home with him at the time, though it was not clear if Brown was with them.

Hsieh retired from Zappos over the summer after 20 years leading the company. The online shoe retailer shared a tribute on social media late Friday.

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“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being,” the statement said. “His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos.”

Hsieh was a Harvard University graduate who joined the company — then called ShoeSite.com — in 1999. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009, but Hsieh had remained with the company until his retirement.

Fox News' Louis Casiano and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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