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Date set for coroner's inquest into fatal Gastown SRO fire

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A date has been set for a coroner's inquest into the deaths of Mary Ann Garlow and Dennis James Guay, who perished in the Winters Hotel fire last year.

The inquest, which Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth ordered in July 2022, will begin on Jan. 22 at the Burnaby Coroners' Court. 

Presiding coroner John Knox and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath and make findings of fact related to the two deaths. The jury will also have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future.

Coroners' inquests do not determine fault or legal responsibility.

Flames tore through the Winters Hotel, an SRO building in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood, on April 11, 2022.

Initially, authorities said all of the building's residents were accounted for as the building burned. That assertion proved to be incorrect, however.

The building, which was more than a century old, was deemed to be damaged beyond repair. Demolition was halted 12 days after the fire when crews discovered a body. Several hours later, a second person's remains were found.

The deceased were identified – first by family and community members and later by officials – as Garlow, 68, and Guay, 53

Firefighters previously said their preliminary findings suggested the fire was caused by unattended candles.

The sprinkler system in the building, which was operated by Atira Property Management Inc., was disabled at the time of the blaze. The system had been activated during another fire days earlier, then turned off.

Earlier this year, on the one-year anniversary of the fire, former residents of the heritage building filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging that Atira, Winters Residence Ltd., and the City of Vancouver were negligent and breached a duty of care to the people who lived in, visited and worked at the building. 

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Lisa Steacy and Andrew Weichel 

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