LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas coroner identified six people ranging from age 46 to 72 who were killed in a weekend fire at a downtown apartment building.
County Coroner John Fudenberg identified the victims Tuesday as city and county officials were investigating the cause and spread of the Saturday fire that also injured 13. His office said it did not yet have the cause of death for the victims and expected to release that within six to eight weeks.
The victims were identified as: Henry Lawrence Pinc, 70; Tracy Ann Cihal, 57; Francis Lombardo, Jr., 72; Cynthia Mikell, 61; Kerry Baclaan, 46 and Donald Keith Bennett, 63.
Bennett was a maintenance worker at the building whom surviving residents credited with saving lives. Survivors said the disabled Marine veteran risked his life as he ran through the building early Saturday, pounding on his neighbor's doors and screaming “fire” as black smoke filled the hallways.
His actions allowed others to escape in time. Resident Floyd Guenther recounted seeing Bennett trying to kick open doors to a back stairway that was bolted shut.
“It is not surprising. Helping people … it was in his DNA,” his cousin Ray Bennett of the Baltimore, Maryland-area, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The predawn fire appeared to start Saturday around a stove in a first-floor unit of the building, forcing some residents to jump down from upper floor windows to escape thick smoke blocking exits.
Firefighters began treating the injured and helping rescue people hanging or jumping out of windows, according to Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski. He said three people were found dead inside the building and three outside after the fire was extinguished.
City officials say there had been past code violations lodged against the building but all had been quickly resolved. Investigators are looking into resident complaints that the building's smoke or fire alarms weren't working properly and that some residents didn't have heat and were using stoves to keep warm.
Resident Dejoy Wilson, who is three months pregnant, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she and her husband tried to escape to the roof but found a stairwell door locked. Instead, she and her husband used a knotted bed sheet to escape from their third-floor apartment window.
Wilson said her hands slipped on the sheet and she fell to the ground, landing on her back. The 23-year-old was unconscious when her husband jumped to the ground and found her.
Wilson has been hospitalized since Saturday with injuries that include a broken back and broken ribs, but she says her baby’s heart is beating and should be OK.
Her husband Jonathan Wilson, 29, said that their apartment had bedbugs when they moved in several months ago, but it was affordable at $700 a month and they “thought it was safe to live there.”
Dejoy Wilson’s grandparents have invited the couple to stay with them at their one-bedroom Las Vegas home.