'How come Mary Ann wasn't accounted for?' Grieving family of Gastown fire victim left with unanswered questions
Misty Fredericks is still coming to terms with the fact that her auntie was found in the wreckage of the Winters Hotel 11 days after the fire that tore through the building in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood.
Fredericks tells CTV News that Mary Ann Garlow – a residential school survivor and member of the Oneida Nation from Six Nations of the Grand River – spent her entire adult life on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside after moving to B.C. from Ontario when she was in her 20s, about 40 years ago.
"She lived and worked and helped people in the community for the rest of her life," Fredericks says. "And she was an exceptional mom because she has a son who requires assisted living, and so they lived together for his whole life.”
Colin Fox was Garlow's friend and neighbour for decades, and he remembers her as selfless.
“If you were hungry she gave you her sandwiches or if you needed change for something, she’d give you all the change she had. She was just a giver," he said.
“She’s going to be sadly missed.”
Garlow lived for years in the Balmoral Hotel, where she enjoyed the view of the mountains from her window, before moving to the Winters Residence with her adult son, who was badly injured when fleeing the burning building.
"He managed to escape the fire by jumping out of the third-storey window, but he experienced damage to his feet. He needs some reconstructive surgery on his feet, so he’s going to be in the hospital for quite a while," Fredericks says.
As a memorial to Garlow and an unidentified second victim grows outside the building, Fredericks says she's not only grieving, but seeking answers.
"Everyone’s very saddened. Very shocked by this news. We’re wondering how it could have happened. How come Mary Ann wasn’t accounted for? Why was she discovered later? Why was the sprinkler system not in place?" she asks.
"There’s 71 people to be accounted for, she’s one of them. They said that everyone has been accounted for – obviously not."
MISSING PERSONS REPORT FILED
Demolition of the fire-ravaged building was halted Friday morning when crews discovered a body. Several hours later, a second person's remains were found.
It is unclear whether the two people died in the fire or after it, and Vancouver Fire Rescue Service Chief Karen Fry declined to speculate on the cause of death Friday.
"Everyone saw the fire," she said. "It was a very large, aggressive fire, and it would definitely be something – if somebody was trapped – that would be very difficult to escape."
The day after the April 11 blaze, officials with BC Housing said no one who had lived in the single-room-occupancy hotel was unaccounted for, but that the damage made it unsafe for firefighters to search some areas of the building.
The Winters Residence is operated by Atira Property Management Inc. as supportive housing. CEO Janice Abbott said Saturday that staff and residents were deeply saddened, although not entirely surprised to learn that someone had died.
"The first body that was found, we were kind of expecting that news. We had filed a missing persons report on her last week," she said, adding one of the person's family members is a long-term staffer.
"We were kind of resigned to that news, still hopeful obviously. Until the body was found, we were still hopeful that they might have gone somewhere and would be found safe … I think there was a moment where we just thought it would be fine because it's been almost a couple of weeks, and I think we thought that if there were bodies to be found they would have been found by now."
Further, Abbott tells CTV News that Garlow was reported missing to the Vancouver Police Department by Atira twice -- once on April 12, and again on April 15.
"Both were cancelled," she wrote in a message, saying further inquiries would be best directed to the VPD.
VPD TIMELINE OF INVESTIGATION
Asked to confirm that the reports were filed and then cancelled, a spokesperson for the VPD said the information provided to CTV News was "incorrect."
Const. Tania Visintin provided a timeline of the investigation into the missing persons file on Garlow, and noted that during a news conference with city officials an inspector with the department "did not confirm that all persons were accounted for and stated that it was premature to state they were."
On the day of the fire, Visintin says Garlow was on a list of people who were unaccounted for.
"Later the same day, VPD Missing Persons Unit was advised by Atira/BC Housing that all persons had been accounted for," she explained in an email.
On April 15, Visintin says police were informed by the housing coordinator of the Winters Hotel that Garlow and two others were not at any of the temporary shelters for displaced residents. Later that day, Visintin says a provincial welfare worker told police Garlow was, in fact, at a shelter.
"Mary was no longer considered missing as welfare is an approved verifier," Visintin added.
On April 19, the VPD reopened the missing persons file after receiving another report from the same worker at the Winters Hotel that Garlow had not been located. On April 20, the day before demolition began, "investigators learned that Mary may actually still be in the building," Visintin said.
"VPD advised Vancouver Fire of this information so they could search for the body as they were doing the demolition."
Typically, buildings are searched twice for occupants, according to the fire department. But in this case, the risk was so great that firefighters could not access areas on the second floor and above. These were the residential floors of the building.
'AS A FAMILY MEMBER, THAT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE TO US'
Fry also announced Friday that the fire department's preliminary investigation into the fire at the Winters Hotel on Abbott Street revealed the fire was accidental and started from unattended candles.
The sprinklers had been turned off after being activated just three days prior to the devastating blaze, according to Fry. Fire crews then issued a notice of violation to have the fire life safety systems serviced, which requires a fire watch being in place until the safety system is operating again.
The fact that the sprinklers were deactivated is one fact that continues to trouble Fredericks.
"I know there’s a fire that happened three days earlier and the sprinkler system worked and reports are that the fire department wanted to upgrade that. But in three days no work had been done?" she says.
"They say that’s a reasonable amount of time to not have that work complete, but as a family member, that’s not acceptable for us. That sprinkler system – if it worked three days prior – potentially could’ve helped with this next fire."
Fredericks says an Indigenous ceremony honouring her aunt is being planned at the site of the Winters Hotel for April 29.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tahmina Aziz, Kendra Mangione, and Alyse Kotyk
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Thousands of people wearing red and white and waiving Canadian flags packed downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada's 155th birthday on Friday, while groups of protesters popped up around Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccines and federal restrictions.
It's been 25 years since Saskatchewan's last residential school closed, but some are still healing.
Biden intends to nominate a conservative, anti-abortion lawyer to federal judgeship, Kentucky Democrats say
U.S. President Joe Biden intends to nominate an anti-abortion Republican lawyer to a federal judgeship, two Kentucky Democrats informed of the decision say.
Canada Day has kicked off the unofficial start of summer, and the tourism sector is hopeful the first season in three years largely free of COVID-19 restrictions will marshal a much-needed boost for a pandemic-stricken industry.
A California man has posted a widely-shared video in an attempt to educate people about the monkeypox virus outbreak, to encourage people to get vaccinated if they're eligible and to make it very clear: 'You do not want this.'
When Dan Fine returned from his first trip volunteering at animal shelters on the Polish-Ukrainian border in late April, he immediately felt compelled to return to continue helping pets that have been left behind in the war.
Moving toward reconciliation doesn't come from jumping 'the queue to perfection,' but by building bridges and trusting one another, Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk told CTV News Channel during Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa on Friday.
In the wake of last year’s discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools and the prominent displays of the Canadian flag during 'Freedom Convoy' protests, some Canadians are re-evaluating the meaning of the national symbol.
'Not going to happen in our lifetime': First-time homebuyers share their struggles with purchasing a home
A recent survey shows nearly 50 per cent of Canadians who rent expect to do so forever. As rising interest and inflation rates contribute to a sense of pessimism among first-time homebuyers in Canada, some are sharing their struggles with purchasing their first house.
A Vancouver Island real estate agent has lost his bid to recover a deposit he made on a new Ford Mustang that he intended to offer as a prize in a year-long contest in 2020.
A search for two "suspicious" men in Saanich Thursday afternoon ended with no risk to the public, police said.
There was more frustration for BC Ferries passengers at the Horseshoe Bay terminal Friday, with some waits extending upwards of five hours at the outset of the long weekend.
Thousands of Calgarians gather for restriction-free Canada Day festivities with focus on reconciliation
Friday marked the first Canada Day in two years without any public health restrictions, which meant Calgarians were finally able to gather at several in-person events across the city.
Members of Calgary’s Vietnamese community gathered Friday at The Journey to Freedom Park to celebrate the unveiling of a meaningful monument.
The Flames lost their longtime organist Friday, when Willy Joosen died.
From drumming circles, charity runs, to a healing walk, Edmontonians found a way to celebrate their country or reflect on its past in a manner that felt right to them.
An explosive comeback will light up the Edmonton sky Friday night as Canada Day fireworks return to pre-pandemic proportions.
Jalen Collins recovered a fumble and scored on a 14-yard return in the fourth quarter to give the Edmonton Elks their first win of the season with a 29-25 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday.
Ontario drivers experienced some relief from record-setting prices at the pump on Friday as the province's gas tax cut came into effect.
One of Toronto’s Canada Day fireworks displays has been cancelled and another has been postponed after a vendor pulled out at the last minute.
Three people are dead, and two others are seriously injured, including a child, in a collision in Brock Township.
A prominent housing advocacy group fears Quebec could see an increase in households left without a permanent place to live as leases expire across the province on July 1.
A motorist died after suffering serious injuries in a collision early Friday evening in Quebec’s Montérégie region.
A group of Indigenous people in Quebec expressed disappointment and concern Friday after learning that only 400 seats will be reserved for residential school survivors at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré during Pope Francis' visit on July 28.
In-person Canada Day festivities made a return on Friday for the first time since the pandemic started, with residents bringing back old traditions and creating new ones.
A pro-choice rally was held at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Friday -- a week after Roe v. Wade was reversed by the United States Supreme Court.
Officers with the Manitoba RCMP have confirmed that a body was found in the Assiniboine River on Thursday.
Canada Day will look a little different in Saskatoon as things move downtown.
It's been 25 years since Saskatchewan's last residential school closed, but some are still healing.
The City of Saskatoon will be running 46 summer play programs from July 4 until August 25.
The COVID-19 pandemic hindered Canada Day celebrations for the past two years. But on Saturday, the red and white was back in full force in Regina with events all around the city.
Both the City of Regina and the provincial government remind travellers to stay safe due to the increased number of people travelling for the Canada Day long weekend.
Regina police responded to an early morning report of a break and enter into a business on the 3700 block of Eastgate Drive East on Friday.
The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won't face direct questions from lawyers representing victims' families.
As Claire Mahaney-Lion dropped her son off at school this morning, she questioned the reasons behind scheduling a school day that would last fewer than two hours.
Saint John is having its dog day. The host city of the 2022 Memorial Cup is celebrating after the Saint John Sea Dogs bested the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 in front of a capacity crowd during Wednesday's championship game at TD Station.
With his wife Joyce on his arm, Tom Hennessy left Victoria Park in London, Ont. to complete his 100-mile walk to raise money for homeless veterans.
After a two-year break due to COVID-19, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics was back Friday in London.
Close to 1,000 people are at Victoria Park in London, Ont Friday morning for the second annual Turtle Island Healing Walk.
People in the Sault once again gathered at the Roberta Bondar Tent Pavilion on the waterfront for some Canada Day fun.
Science North and the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association held an event showcasing many cultures, traditions and tastes that make up their diverse city.
Hundreds of people lined up for free hot dogs and for fun in the suds in Hollinger Park in Timmins on Canada Day. The event was hosted by the City of Timmins and the Timmins Community Park Association.
Emergency service workers in the Region of Waterloo kicked off a friendly competition Friday to see which team can donate the most blood by Labour Day.
OPP are trying to identify a man who they say was involved in an "unwanted residential paving incident" in Puslinch, Ont.
Waterloo Region held its first in-person Canada Day celebrations since 2019 and there were several local events for residents to show off their Canadian pride.