74-year-old man trapped for 5 days, rescued from rubble of senior center fire, officials say
WASHINGTON - A 74-year-old man has been pulled from the rubble five days after a fire at a senior living center in Navy Yard, D.C. officials say.
The man was a resident of the building and had been trapped in a second-floor apartment of the Arthur Capper Senior Building since the fire on Wednesday, according to officials. His name has not yet been released, but sources confirm the victim is Raymond Holton.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press briefing Monday that the man was found by crews hired by the owner of the building. Inspectors say he had no way to get out. Crews say they had to use tools to pry open the apartment door where they found the man inside.
"We got to this one door and I couldn't open it. I have a master key, but the key wouldn't open it. But the door was jammed and so we couldn't open it. And so we heard a voice on the inside and we said, 'We are coming to get you,' and the voice said 'I am not going anywhere,' and I had guys come out to bigger crowbars essentially and we got the door open," said building engineer Allyn Killsheimer, who was a part of the crew that rescued the man.
Holton was found disoriented and dehydrated, but crews say he was in good spirits. He allegedly wanted to walk out on his own, but the building engineer insisted on carrying him out. He was brought out in a kitchen chair.
Investigators say the building had no electricity, but the man was able to survive with water bottles he had in the apartment. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
D.C. Fire and EMS crews arrived on the scene Monday and were seen going into the building.
According to officials, D.C. fire investigators went to conduct a secondary search the day of the fire after all hot spots were out, but did not finish the search after they found the building unstable.
A secondary search was not started until Monday after the man was found inside the building.
Mayor Bowser says officials had been assured Wednesday night by the company that manages the building that all residents had been accounted for. Four residents were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries the day of the fire.
"I got a report this morning that he didn't show up on at least one list, on a rent roll list, and I believe what was provided by the management company or what they told us is that he was on the list and that he was accounted for," said Bowser.
The man was allegedly checked off on their list as accounted for, but no one physically saw him. Officials also say the man did not have any family members who appeared to be looking for him.
D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean says there was no process in place to confirm every apartment was searched.
Vicki Davis, the managing partner for building developer Urban Atlantic, told FOX 5 what happened was “a terrible mistake.”
“ I wish I had an explanation, but I don’t,” Davis said.
She said the city has done an “unbelievable job” and shouldn’t be blamed, and that her company was reviewing every detail of what happened to make sure it never happens again.
The three-alarm fire last Wednesday reportedly started at the 900 block of 5th Street at about 3:30 p.m.
"The teams report in, they take different floors, different areas they report in as to they have completed a primary search," said Dean. "In this case here, they were completing the primary search when they started having debris and walls falling. We had to continue with evacuation of residents while that was going on, so we were unable to complete a secondary search of the building."
D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen said he is outraged over the failure to discover the 74-year-old man earlier.
Neighbors are being credited by city officials with running inside the building, pulling fire alarms, knocking on doors and helping people get to safety. About 100 Marines showed up to the scene to assist the first responders.
RELATED: VIDEO: Marines rush to aid of fire victims in Navy Yard
Officials say 160 residents were displaced as a result of the fire. More than half of the displaced residents were relocated to the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest D.C.