What's left of the walls along the back of a once coral-colored apartment with a view of the marsh on Folly Beach is now charred and black.

The back porch remains intact, but a gaping hole on the side wall of the 81 Center St. apartment exposes the damage from a blaze early Friday that left one person dead.

Authorities identified the dead man as 43-year-old Thomas Thiel, who a neighbor said lived in the building. Thiel died from smoke inhalation, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Brittney Martin said.

The building where the fire occurred contained two apartment units. Thiel's body was found in a bathroom of the one of those units, according to police officials. Firefighters got to the apartment at around 3:42 a.m. They worked quickly and the fire was out in minutes.

“It was a good effort by everyone involved,” said Folly Beach Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown.

“Unfortunately, it ended with someone losing their life.”

Next door, Flipper Finders, a boat and kayak tour store, still stands. Store owner Richard Brendel said he got a phone call at around 7 a.m. and drove out there. Brendel stood in the windy chill and watched as firefighters went in and out of the building investigating what might have started the blaze.

“My heart and condolences go out to the family of 'Big Tom' and his cousin Dave,” he said.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents were also on scene, according to Folly Beach Public Safety Sgt. Kevin Berkel.

“We were requested by the local agency. This is not unusual in the case of a fatality in a fire,” said SLED spokesman Thom Berry.

The adjacent apartment and the downstairs area of the building also had water and smoke damage, Brown said.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.


Earlier versions of this story had an incorrect first name for Folly Beach Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown. The Post and Courier regrets the error.