Hopewell apartment fire leaves two with life-threatening injuries

Posted at 4:13 PM, Sep 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-02 23:13:46-04

HOPEWELL, Va. -- Crews battled a house fire in Hopewell Wednesday afternoon that left two people injured and caused heavy damage to the apartment.

The blaze broke out in the basement of the home in the 100 block of South 16th Street. The call came in around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

A roommate told CBS 6 a man injured in the fire had been drinking prior to the 911 call that sent fire crews to the site.

Hopewell firefighters said both the male and female victims are at the VCU Medical Center burn unit and their injuries are classified as life-threatening.

"I saw smoke billowing out the basement window,” said Keith Harris, who lives upstairs.  "I ran back in upstairs, grabbed my bag and ran out and called 911.”

Firefighters arrived on scene to find heavy smoke and fire and neighbors told them people were trapped inside. "We made an aggressive interior attack and found two victims," said Hopewell Fire Chief Donny Hunter.

Neighbors said the man that lived there was found first. "They dragged him out,” said Tina Whitesell, who lives next door.  “His face was charred and chest and stomach were swollen.  Then they were doing chest compressions."

Firefighters also rescued a woman who was visiting the man and they said she was not breathing.  "We worked her in the ambulance and got a pulse," said Hunter.

Rescue workers then tried to call for med-flight to take the victims to VCU.  "We were unable to get it, because of the weather," Hunter said.

While fire investigators worked on trying to find a cause, Ronnie Elmore, a roommate and long-time friend, has his own theory on how the fire started.  "I told him to put the cigarettes down.  That's what I think happened,” said Elmore.

He said he’s worried about his buddy of 40 years who's clinging to life. "Randy Booth? One of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet in your whole life. He’s got a heart bigger than this town."

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