Un­suit­able shel­ter

Man found dead dur­ing fire in Whit­ney Pier Mon­day night

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY GREG MCNEIL

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.

GREG MCNEIL/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Fire­fight­ers are shown on scene at a Mon­day night fire in Whit­ney Pier where a man was found dead. The death is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

El­lis

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