Victims found dead after apartment fire

February 20, 2012 4:13:32 PM PST
It's been nearly a week since a fire severely damaged a north Harris County apartment complex. At the time fire investigators believed everyone had gotten out safely. But we now know they were wrong.

After firefighters put out the two-alarm fire at the Monticello at Cranbrook apartments last Wednesday, investigators at first thought everyone had made it out alive.

Lt. Chad Shaw with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said at the time, "At this time we're still trying to ascertain to make sure that everybody has made it out of the building, but so far we have located everybody who belongs in the building."

Fire investigators from the Fire Marshal's Office worked with representatives from the apartment management for more than three hours to verify that all occupants had been accounted for.

"If we had received any report at all of persons still missing, we would have remained on scene for as long as it took to locate every person," said Captain James Bolton of the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office.

But two people didn't make it out, and at the time of the fire, authorities did not know they were there.

Late Sunday night, a tenant who had lived in one of the heavily damaged units notified the apartment management that he had two people living in his apartment who were not listed on his lease agreement. The tenant also stated that he had failed to tell the management and fire investigators about those two people on the day of the fire. Instead, he reported that everyone had safely been evacuated from his apartment.

On Monday morning, fire investigators from the Fire Marshal's Office, along with the assistance of search dogs, responded to the scene and dug through multiple layers of debris and found two bodies under the rubble of a collapsed apartment.

"As soon as we received word that there were people not accounted for, we arranged to return to the scene with search dogs at first light," said Mike Montgomery, Harris County Fire Marshal. "Tragically, the latest report was confirmed by our search. Our sympathy goes out to these families for the loss of their loved ones."

The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office picked up the remains of those two people found in the rubble. The official identities of the victims are pending an autopsy.

The Monticello at Cranbrook apartment management said they are cooperating with authorities.

The roof of the 32-unit apartment collapsed in the fire.