Las Vegas Investor Tony Hsieh ‘Trapped’ or ‘Barricaded’ During Deadly Connecticut Fire: Reports 

Posted on: December 2, 2020, 12:50h. 

Last updated on: December 2, 2020, 02:47h.

Las Vegas investor Tony Hsieh did not respond to rescuers asking him to open the door to a storage shed where he was found in a Connecticut fire, according to media accounts.

Tony Hsieh
Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, seen here, is credited with transforming downtown Las Vegas. He died Friday from smoke inhalation from a Connecticut fire. (Image: New York Post)

Hsieh, 46, died Friday, nine days after the blaze at a waterfront home in New London, Connecticut. Authorities ruled his death was an accident caused by smoke inhalation.

On Wednesday, fire and police officials still were investigating the Nov. 18 incident. Different reports indicated the person in the shed either was “trapped” or “barricaded,” according to Fox News.

The male is barricaded inside,” according to a voice heard on an emergency recording. “He’s not answering the door. Everyone else is outside the house. They’re trying to get him to open up.”

It is unknown why Hsieh was barricaded in the shed at this time.

Fire crews forced their way into the shed at about 3:30 am and removed Hsieh, according to media accounts. He was taken to a hospital in New London and later flown 65 miles west to the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Center.

Hsieh’s family was at his side when he died at the hospital in Bridgeport, the Associated Press reported.

Visiting His ‘Soulmate’

The Connecticut home is owned by Rachael Brown, according to media reports. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has identified Brown as Hsieh’s girlfriend and among his closest confidants. The $1.3-million, five-bedroom house is on the Thames River.

Hsieh retired in August as chief executive officer of Las Vegas-based Zappos, an online shoe-and-clothing seller. He had been with the company for more than 20 years. Hsieh had stayed on after Amazon bought the company in 2009 for $2.1 billion.

Zappos hired Brown in 2004 as a temporary phone representative. Two months later, Hsieh gave her a promotion, according to the Zappos website. A musician in Las Vegas, she originally was from a bayside Connecticut town a few miles west of New London.

Anthony Hebert, identified as one of Hsieh’s assistants, told a Fox News affiliate in Connecticut that Hsieh was in New London visiting family members and his “soulmate.” It was unclear whether Brown had been inside the house during the incident.

Revitalizing Downtown Las Vegas

The Illinois-born son of immigrants from Taiwan, Hsieh grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from Harvard University in 1995 with a computer science degree.

Hsieh became known in Southern Nevada as an innovative executive who spent millions on transforming the neglected downtown area near the hotel-casinos on Fremont Street. The state’s largest resorts are on the Strip south of downtown, outside city limits.

An unorthodox tech leader, Hsieh has been described as soft-spoken and introspective. He lived for a time in downtown Las Vegas in a 240-square-foot Airstream trailer and kept a pet alpaca. Hsieh was known to attend the Burning Man festival in the Northern Nevada desert near Reno, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

After attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Hsieh bought property there this year. Brown had moved to the Utah ski resort town with Hsieh, the Las Vegas newspaper reported.