FLORIDA. — Firefighters found three bodies in a burning mansion owned by former tennis star James Blake, who was renting out the Tampa Bay-area house and not there at the time, officials said Wednesday.
Hours after the fire was reported about 6 a.m. EDT, firefighters were still there putting out hot spots at the 7,600-square foot home located north of downtown Tampa. It could be days before detectives are able to sift through the charred debris, officials said.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez Nunez said detectives don’t yet know the identities of the victims.
Neighbors told detectives that Blake hasn’t lived in the house for a while and was renting it out, she said. Detectives haven’t talked with Blake, whose agent said he was certain Blake was not in Florida, but he wouldn’t say where he was.
“He’s not in Florida, I can tell you 100 percent that he’s not in Florida,” Carlos Fleming told The Associated Press.
Blake bought the home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it totally engulfed in flames.
“It’s in the back part of Avila, the million-dollar homes. It’s a massive home,” said Nacole Revette, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough Fire Rescue.
Avila is an exclusive enclave north of Tampa known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the subdivision, which has a country club and golf course.
Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organization dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.