Reported by: Hailey Winslow
Wilmington Firefighters are still investigating a fatal fire that broke out at an apartment complex near UNCW early Saturday morning. One person died and four others are injured.
“The whole place was engulfed in probably a good 15 to 20 minutes,” said witness Jared Huff.
At around 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, Cypress Pointe Apartment Building 5387, off New Center Drive, in Wilmington caught on fire.
“Within about 35 minutes, we had the fire under control. however, we did have one fatality,” said Wilmington Fire Captain James Casteen.
That fatality was 23-year old Rory Michaelson. She just graduated from UNCW last month and was going to pursue a job as a Special Education teacher in New Bern.
Three adults and one child were also injured in the fire. One of which was Michaelson’s boyfriend.
“Just screaming, she’s still in there, ‘I’m so sorry.’ We got him back as best we could. He kept trying to go in, we kinda pulled him back.”, said Huff. He’s a former Marine and had a flame retardant flight suit in his car.
“Me and three other gentlemen and an officer who responded, started kicking in doors as needed, and opening doors and telling all the tenants that they needed to get out because the apartment complex was on fire,” said Huff.
Before firefighters could get to the scene, Huff, three other former Marines, a Navy corpsman, and a police officer helped get people out. “My friend John ran up the stairs, and as we was reaching to the top, the roof actually fell in, he was knocked back.”
One volunteer ran in to save a woman and her child on the bottom floor. “He scooped up the child, a baby, young, and put her in his coat, and told the woman that she needed to wake up that her whole complex was on fire and at that point the whole outside of her apartment was on fire and the upstairs apartment as well,” Huff said.
The fire destroyed eight apartment units and damaged another eight. Barbara Reed lives in the apartment complex. She’s been forced to move out. “There’s no apartment left where i was at, I mean it’s gone,” said Reed. “Everything still smells like smoke, and there’s stains, and it’s terrible. I smelt like smoke myself.”
Reed says she’s thankful to be alive, but she’s going to miss living in her old apartment. “Just like family living under one roof and that’s the way it was. So it definitely hit hard to see that a life was lost.”