A coroner’s inquest has been told that a Vancouver rooming house where a fire killed two people in 2022 had a chained door, as relatives testified about the devastating impact of the blaze.
The two-week inquest into the deaths of Mary Ann Garlow and Dennis Guay began with family members describing their loss in the fire that gutted the Winters Hotel in the Downtown Eastside.
Garlow’s niece, Misty Fredericks, told the jury that her aunt’s son John lived in the same building and jumped out of his third-storey room to escape the fire, shattering both legs.
She said it would be too difficult for John to testify but he wanted the jury to know about his love for his mom, and that there were “chains on the door, the sprinklers didn’t work and there was no way out.”
She said people who knew Garlow said she loved the community that she found in the Downtown Eastside and that some people referred to her as their “street mom.”
A statement from Guay’s family read to the jury described his love of chess and backgammon and said his death left a “massive void.”
The bodies of Garlow and Guay were found during demolition work on the shell of the building more than a week after the April 2022 fire.
The property manager originally said it was believed all residents had escaped.
Nearly 30 witnesses are scheduled to testify at the inquest, which is not to find fault but can lead to recommendations for preventing similar deaths in the future.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2024.