Fire investigators in New London, Conn., issued their report today regarding the circumstances that led to the death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh last year.
Hsieh was staying with friends at a home at 500 Pequot Ave. in New London, when a fire broke out on Nov. 18 in a shed where he was sleeping. He later died of smoke inhalation on Nov. 27.
The New London Fire Marshal’s Office, working in collaboration with the city’s police department, interviewed witnesses and studied audio and video recordings from the property and found that the exact cause of the fire remains “undetermined.”
However, in his report, Fire Marshal Vernon Skau presented four different hyphotheses for the fire’s source, including a portable propane heater found in the shed, as well as discarded smoking materials and candles located near the origin point. The last hypothesis suggested the fire might have been started by Hsieh through carelessness or as an intentional act.
The report further noted, “There is physical evidence to lead investigators to theorize that Hsieh could have been impaired or intoxicated at the time of the fire.” At the scene, investigators found bottles of Fernet Branca, a marijuana pipe and whipping cream containers, which according to reports, Hsieh had allegedly been using to inhale nitrous oxide.
In late November, the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Hsieh’s death an accident.
The internet visionary is credited with revolutionized the footwear industry and the way that shoes are sold. He stepped down from the helm at Zappos last year, but left an indelible mark with big ideas that changed how businesses operate and treat their customers and employees.
The news of his passing last year was met with an outpouring of love both from his Zappos family and from friends throughout the footwear community, who shared with FN memories of the executive’s genius and abundant generosity.
Fred Mossler, who worked alongside Hsieh to build Zappos, told FN, “Tony was always about sharing. Even back to the early days, when we moved to free shipping and no one was offering it, we asked what would happen if other companies start doing it. Tony said that would be great because that would just make for a better customer experience. It was never about what was best for Zappos. It was about what was best for the human condition.”