Man found dead during fire in Whitney Pier Monday night
A man found dead during a fire in a vacant building in Whitney Pier is suspected to have been homeless person seeking shelter from the cold.
He was found by firefighters just after 9 p.m. Monday night as the fire raged through the Robert Street building and temperatures plummeted well below the freezing mark.
No one officially confirmed the deceased was a homeless person but neighbours and the building’s owner believe that to have been the case.
“I heard the officer say it was a homeless fellow,” said Conn Banfield, who has lived near the burned-down building for 25 years.
“I never saw him or whatever. I don’t know how he looks or how old he is. It’s unbelievable for this area to find someone like that.”
Banfield, who watched the fire burst through the vacant building’s windows from his home on nearby Henry Street, said he has seen no other signs of homelessness in his neighbourhood.
Like others in the area, Carmel Cheetham was surprised and saddened to hear the deceased might have been a homeless person.
“They had to find some place to stay,” said Cheetham, a babysitter for a family on Henry Street. “And there’s still power on in there, so I guess they figured it was a good place to be.” Both Cheetham and Banfield had heard others had died in the same home, though that was before the building was vacant.
A company owned by Danny Ellis purchased the building from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in January. The company plans were to tear the structure down so that seniors housing could be constructed.
“It’s slated for demolition. We were just waiting for a break in the weather and then we were going to knock it down,” said Ellis, when interviewed outside of the burned out building Tuesday morning.
“I had no idea until I got a call (Tuesday) morning that they found a body here. I was shocked. It’s a hell of a state of the homeless if someone has to live in that mess.”
Ellis did not know who the deceased might have been and previously had heard no reports of anyone breaking into the building.
“We checked on it early last week. There were no footprints around the building. The only sign I could see were cat tracks. I don’t even know what to say.”
After doing business for over 30 years in Whitney Pier, he was disheartened to learn that someone in the community “had to seek shelter in a building like that.”
Cape Breton Regional Police and the fire marshal were on scene Tuesday for further investigation.
There was no obvious fire damage on the outside of the structure, but extensive burning could be seen inside.
The body of the deceased has been sent for autopsy.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 902-563-5151 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
A provincial fire marshal walks into an investigation scene on Robert Street in Whitney Pier on Tuesday morning where a man was found dead the night before during a fire. An autopsy is being performed and the death is under investigation.
Firefighters are shown on scene at a Monday night fire in Whitney Pier where a man was found dead. The death is under investigation.