Sep. 19—NORWICH — A man was found dead in a burning apartment on Tuesday morning, minutes after a neighbor said he heard cries for help from inside.
The identity of the deceased man, found during a search by firefighters of the 197-199 Central Ave. building, was not immediately released.
The fire was reported at 7:47 a.m., when Norwich Fire Battalion Chief Michael Dziavit said 911 callers reported someone trapped in the upstairs apartment. Firefighters arrived to find smoke and fire in the upstairs apartment and immediately worked to extinguish the fire and search the building.
The deceased man was found in a bedroom, Dziavit said. Occupants of the first-floor apartment had safely left the building and reports of a baby inside turned out not to be accurate.
Harrison Faison, longtime owner of Platinum Cuts barber shop at 189 Central Ave., was just opening his shop when he saw the smoke and commotion next door. Faison said the first-floor residents were outside yelling about a fire and running to the deck that leads to the entrance of the upstairs apartment where he heard screaming from inside.
"I could hear him screaming, 'Get me out! Get me out,'" Faison said.
Faison said he had called 911 and firefighters arrived "within seconds." He said the deceased man's brother, who also lives in the burned apartment but was not home at the time of the fire, also showed up to the scene of the fire.
"I know both brothers, cut their hair occasionally," Faison said. "I'm a little bit in disbelief. It's just heartbreaking, very disturbing. It's just another lesson that life is short, and you don't know when your time is going to come."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the state and local fire marshals' offices. Fire investigators from the Norwich Police Department are also involved. Norwich Police Detective Lt. Anthony Gomes said police will obtain a search warrant for the apartment as they work to determine whether the fire or the man's death was a crime.
The cause of the man's death will be determined after an autopsy at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Dziavit said the second-floor apartment sustained damage from the fire and did not appear to be habitable. The building houses two apartments and a business, Beards by Flawless.
The Red Cross is helping five displaced residents with emergency needs. The Norwich Fire Department received aid during the fire from the Taftville, Laurel Hill, Occum and East Great Plain fire departments.