Woman identified as one of two victims of Winters Hotel fire

Two bodies were found during the demolition of the burned down hotel on Friday, one was that of Mary Garlow

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Candice Maclaurin knelt on Saturday and carefully laid a bouquet of flowers at the site of her home of seven years, a single-room hotel that caught fire last week from an unattended candle, causing devastation to 71 tenants still struggling with its consequences.

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Just a day earlier, the 37-year-old resident was shouting loudly at workers hired to demolish the fire-damaged Winters Hotel, which was operated under a lease by Atira Property Management.

“There are still people in there. Mary is still in there,” Maclaurin shouted, holding up a sign in protest. “I knew I wasn’t crazy.”

Late Friday afternoon, the demolition work had been interrupted after the discovery of two bodies. One, found on the third floor of the building, was identified by the family as Mary Garlow, a friend of Maclaurin.

“It was his son, John, who jumped out of the third story window during the fire. He broke both ankles,” she said.

Vancouver Fire Department Chief Karen Fry said Friday it took 11 days to discover there were bodies in the building because the fire had been so dangerous that firefighters weren’t not entered most of the building before demolition began.

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“Our search is not over and we have not entered the building. To be absolutely clear, we are not entering the building, we are not entering the building. This is throughout the demolition process and today we had to stop that process and get our ladder truck down and remove the body,” Fry said.

Postmedia was unable to verify the identity of the second body found at Winters Hotel.

It took just over a week for the majority of displaced residents to be moved from a shelter to a 71-room Atira-owned hotel in the Downtown Eastside at 303 Columbia St.

Maclaurin, who moved into the building on Monday, said: ‘We are all so sad. John calls us every night from the hospital, asking where his mother is. He doesn’t remember what happened.

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Doug McInnes, 55, is a tenant of the Winters Hotel who was displaced by the Gastown fire.
Doug McInnes, 55, is a tenant of the Winters Hotel who was displaced by the Gastown fire. Photo by Sarah Grochowski /PNG

While Atira CEO Janice Abbott told Postmedia the hotel had enough rooms for all of Winters’ displaced tenants before they moved in, Doug McInnes said he was told otherwise when he checked into the hotel on Monday.

“An Atira staff member said I had no rooms left,” said the 55-year-old who is currently suffering from kidney failure after an unsuccessful organ transplant.

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t want me, and I still haven’t got my bail back. It was supposed to be dropped off at Bette’s Boutique last week.

McInnes began looking for low-income housing on his own and eating at local shelters.

‘I’m just glad I was able to collect my son’s ashes from my windowsill before the fire burned everything down,’ he said as he walked down East Hastings Street with a cane .

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When Postmedia arrived at the Columbia Street Hotel on Saturday, tenant David Canney still hadn’t heard the news.

“I can’t believe Mary is dead,” said the 37-year-old, who admitted he still had flashbacks of the fire.

“I was in my room on the second floor at the time. I never heard a fire alarm or saw any sprinklers go off, but when I smelled smoke I rushed down the hall. Ramps shattered all around me, one of my neighbors refused to leave, crying out for help to find his dog.

After Canney led the man down two flights of stairs and onto the street outside, he returned to the burning building to try to find the animal.

“I went as far as I could, but I was choking on the smoke. That’s when I heard the dog, he was on fire, he was screaming,” he said.

Canney wishes Atira had offered her and the other tenants bereavement counseling.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Every time I close my eyes I hear that fucking dog.

– With files by John Mackie

[email protected]

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