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Tony Hsieh: Fire department report reveals new details surrounding death of former Zappos CEO

Posted at 12:58 PM, Jan 26, 2021

LAS VEGAS — A report from a Connecticut fire department sheds new light on the fire that resulted in the November death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Hsieh, 46, died on Nov. 27, several days after he was pulled from a fire at a home owned by his close friend, Rachael Brown, in New London, Connecticut. Hsieh's death came just months after he retired as Zappos' CEO.

According to a report from the New London Fire Department, it is possible that Hsieh’s carelessness or intentional acts may have started the fire in the shed where he was found.

A timeline of the events in the report indicates that Hsieh decided to stay the night in a shed attached to the home after a fight with Brown between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Nov. 17.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on Nov. 18, Brett Gorman — a man described as a witness in the fire department's report — discovered that Hsieh had lit a small fire in the shed to keep warm.

Gorman observed that the fire was started by a candle and blanket, and that he brought Hsieh a portable propane space heater for him to use.

At around 3:14 a.m., surveillance video shows smoke coming out of the shed when Hsieh opened the door.

At that time, Hsieh removed the propane heater, but then pulled it back inside of the shed. Smoke and burning embers were later observed by fire investigators on the surveillance video. They could also hear the sound of the door to the shed being locked.

A few minutes later, according to the timeline, a limo arrived at the home to pick Hsieh up to take him to the airport for a trip to Maui.

At about 3:20 a.m., Hsieh's brother, Andy, went to the shed to tell his brother that the limo had arrived. Hsieh told his brother that he needed "five more minutes."

Andy Hsieh and Gorman returned about five minutes later and heard hissing from inside the shed. At that point, they knew there was a fire inside and tried to break down the door. When they were unsuccessful, they called for help.

The report indicates that the exact cause of the fire can not be determined.


The report says that it is possible that the portable propane heater came into contact with nearby combustibles, causing the fire.

The report also says that is possible that carelessly discarded cigarettes or marijuana were the cause. Several cigarettes and a marijuana pipe were found near the shed.

Additionally, there were indications that Hsieh set the fire intentionally. Fire investigators found a plastic bag and a basket containing burned paper.

Fire investigators also believe that Hsieh could have been impaired or intoxicated at the time of the fire. Investigators also found several nitrous oxide chargers, a whipped cream dispenser, a marijuana pipe, and a liquor bottle near where Hsieh was found.

Hsieh died a little over a week later at a hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As of now, the cause of the fire is still classified as "undetermined." The department is still seeking more evidence or information.

Hsieh's death came just months after he stepped down as CEO of Zappos. After his retirement, he moved to Park City, Utah, and began purchasing multiple properties.

RELATED: Tony Hsieh out as CEO of shoe and clothing giant Zappos

According to previous reports, police in Park City conducted welfare checks on Hsieh twice in August. They also responded to several disturbance calls in September.

Hsieh frequently held large parties in Park City, one of which was attended by the singer Jewel. After that party, Jewel sent Hsieh a letter about his self-destructive behavior.

RELATED: Artist Jewel says she 'lost dear friend Tony Hsieh'

Hsieh, who poured millions of dollars into the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, died without a will.

A judge named Hsieh’s father and brother as special administrators of his estate last month.

His estimated net worth at the time of his death was hundreds of millions of dollars.

This story was originally published by Joyce Lupiani on KTNV in Las Vegas.