Fire in Old Montreal | The fifth victim was recovered from the wreckage

Fire in Old Montreal |  The fifth victim was recovered from the wreckage

(Montreal) The body of a fifth victim was recovered Saturday afternoon from the ruins of a building in Old Montreal that was destroyed by fire a week ago.


Montreal Fire Department technical rescue team members made the discovery as they continued their search inside the building based on sketches of the building and information gathered by police officers, said Véronique Dubuque of the Montreal Police Service.

The body has been handed over to the Forensic Science and Forensic Medicine Laboratory to pursue the identification of the person.

Four bodies had already been found earlier this week. Two others are still missing.

Testimonies from former residents and victims of the building in Old Montreal destroyed by the March 16 fire raise questions about the safety of the complex.

Police and firefighters say it is too late to determine the cause of the fire. However, witnesses spoke of faulty smoke detectors and a lack of emergency exits.

This isn’t the first time owner Emilie-Haim Benamore has run into trouble with her tenants.

In 2012, before the Régie du logment (now the Administrative Housing Tribunal), he invoked the “risks of electrical overload” created by a tenant in a request to terminate the lease against him.

Mr. Benamore said the tenant in question had “altered or added to” electrical systems and overloaded the building’s circuits.

“In the current situation, the homeowner insists that the building is not profitable, the accommodation is not accessible, and that there is a fire risk for various equipment and that it is monitored. Insurance, especially since it is a historic building,” the court ruling says.

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The owner also called a witness from Lloyd’s insurance company who said there were safety issues with the unit. In an affidavit included in the court’s ruling, Michael Frigan said the unit was not originally an apartment, but rather a storage area. Access to the unit is necessary for maintenance on the building’s heating and electrical systems, Mr. Freegan noted.

“The rain next to the home’s electrical entrance presents a real risk of electrocution,” he said, adding that finding a new insurer would be necessary if the problems weren’t resolved.

But in her written decision, Administrative Judge Jocelyn Gascon concluded that there was no substantial evidence to suggest that tenant Piotr Torbicki was responsible for the electrical problems.

“Various electrical systems, not compliant with the Tribunal, appear to be obsolete, but the evidence presented does not establish that this is a recent addition,” he wrote. Mr. regarding the risk of fire. He had no comment on Benamore’s comments.

The William-Watson-Ogilvy Building was built in 1890 and originally housed the offices of a flour company. It was gradually converted into housing between the late 1960s and 1980s, with an architectural firm remaining on the ground floor. Municipal property records show that the building was purchased in 2009 by a lawyer named Binamar.

Louis-Philippe Lacroix said his 18-year-old daughter, Charlie, who is presumed missing in the fire, called 911 twice within minutes, saying she couldn’t get out of the unit where she was staying because there was no window or emergency exit.

Alina Kuzmina, who survived the fire, said that although the unit she rented in the semi-basement with her husband had fire alarms, she did not remember hearing them go off. Mme Kuzmina managed to escape from the building by breaking a window.

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The owner responded this week through his lawyer, Alexandre Bergevin, that the alarm system was replaced in 2019 and regularly tested. The lawyer pointed out that the architecture of the building was complicated with regard to emergency evacuations.

“It has always been considered amicable in the past,” he said in a speech.

A former tenant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he owned several buildings in the city. In recent years, long-term tenants have gradually left the campus and their accommodations have turned into rental units on the Airbnb platform, the witness said. He said some of the units are subdivided and at least one has no windows.

Me Bergevin said in an interview Friday that the short-term rentals in the building were the work of the tenants, not his client. He alleged that a certain individual rented seven units in the building and listed them on Airbnb “illegally.” He said Mr Benamore had instructed the offending party to end the short-term tenancy and that he had agreed to vacate the building by the 1st.R July.

“It’s a real scourge, it’s uncontrollable,” says Me Bergevin on Airbnb rentals. “He had suspicions about multiple tenants in multiple buildings, but it’s very difficult to have proof of all that. »

The attorney admitted that one apartment in the building “didn’t have a window in the traditional sense of the word,” but did have a skylight.

Asked if the smoke detectors were working, he said, “That’s a big question. We don’t know yet. But he argued that all the apartments had detectors and that the central detector was working the day before the fire, and it would be a surprise if they all failed.

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Me Bergevin said he was not aware of any specific electrical problems, including those raised in the Régie du Logement’s 2012 resolution, but noted that the building dates back to the 19th century.e century

“It certainly wasn’t electricity as we know it today,” he noted, adding that in times of trouble, qualified electricians worked in the building.

He said Mr Benamore had been attacked since news broke of people dying in the fire.

“The People’s Court, we don’t know what caused the fire, it is causing him psychological distress,” he said.

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