5 bodies recovered in San Marcos fire, Pasadena native still missing

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Monday, July 23, 2018
Fifth body recovered after fire at an off-campus student complex in San Marcos
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Fifth body recovered after fire at an off-campus student complex in San Marcos

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KTRK) -- A fifth body has now been recovered after a fire at an off-campus student housing complex in San Marcos.

The fifth victim was found Monday afternoon. Investigators say search and recovery continue for any victims who may be on the property continues.

The bodies have been transported to the Travis County Medical Examiner's office, where it could take more than a week for victims to be identified.

"Our hearts are broken," San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides said. "We've lost so much. We've lost the love, energy, optimism and potential of these young souls."

Investigators did not disclose the genders of the victims.

One of the people missing is Pasadena native David Ortiz. Ortiz is the son of Pasadena Memorial High School teacher Gina Ortiz.

His former assistant principal, Tish Eubanks, described him as a student with his whole life ahead of him.

"He was the kind of kid that you never worried about him making the wrong choices," Eubanks said. "I never worried about him. I knew he was going to go onto college and do great things."

Eubanks said his mom is in San Marcos, waiting to see if he's found.

"All I could tell you is it's a mother's worst nightmare," Eubanks said. "I worried about my kids when they went to college. I'm not going to lie. Let's face it. The things you worry about are public intoxication. You never worry about a fire."

David's friend from Pasadena, Jake Minter, is watching from a distance.

Despite news of more bodies being found, he's still holding out hope.

"I'm just hoping he's okay, out there somewhere," Minter said. "I'm hoping he'll reach out to someone."

Firefighters say the fire started Friday morning at the Iconic Village Apartment complex, which mostly houses Texas State University students.

The search and recovery efforts were placed on hold over concerns about hotspots and the stability of the wrecked buildings but resumed Sunday.

Officials say a total of seven people were hurt, but only one suffered critical injuries.

Nearly 200 people were displaced. Many of the victims found their way to the San Marcos activity center.

Kistner said that investigators did a thorough search of Building L and there were no further victims. Kistner added that authorities plan to continue search and recovery efforts until they have found all potential victims.

San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides says that the city will host a resource center for those affected by the fire at the activity center on Tuesday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 25 from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Organizations will also be on site to help answer questions for those who have been displaced.

Residents have already started a collection for clothes and food for those affected, but until they can replace everything, many say they are relying on the city and Red Cross to help them find temporary housing.

If you'd like to make a donation, go to www.br3t.org. Click on donate and enter the word "Iconic" into the comments. All of the funds will be distributed to those who register when they go to the resource center.

Mayor Thomaides also asked anyone who can help families with making final arrangements for their loved ones to contact the fire chief or fire marshal.

Officials say they need to determine if the buildings that did not sustain structural damage are livable.

During the press conference, Kistner said that there were no sprinklers in the building.

He says that's because sprinklers were not a requirement when the complex was built in 1970. There was also no major remodel that would require sprinklers to have been added to the building.

Authorities don't know if smoke detectors inside the building were functioning or the last time they were inspected.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"This is not something where we just take in a big bucket and just dump it on the ground and we call it good," Kistner said. "Every piece of evidence in that building will be touched by investigators hands."

Crews are expected to be at the apartment complex until Friday.

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