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May 20, 2004

Fire leaves homeless man dead

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An early morning fire has taken the life of a Belize City man. News 5′s Patrick Jones visited the scene on New Road and discovered that the tragedy was an accident waiting to happen.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The early morning blaze was confined to the sleeping area of fifty-four year old Gilroy Baird. According to neighbourhood resident Lionel Waight, there was nothing friends and other residents of the abandoned building–which once housed the Copacabana Club–could do to help the disabled man.

Lionel Waight, Neighbourhood Friend

“The man mi di holler fuh help. He the holler for ?Shake Yu Body?, but Shake Yu Body he–I noh understand Shake Yu body. Shake Yu Body like he fraid fuh go inna the fire, well, I understand that dah fire, you know dem way deh? So the man just passed away. Nobody could have helped the man and thing, right.”

Patrick Thomas, also known as “Shake Your Body”, who lives above where Baird slept, says he was awakened by the commotion downstairs, but by then it was too late to do anything.

Patrick Thomas

“I the sleep right and when I do conscious I feel wah heat and I decide well I can?t handle this heat. So like I jump up and when I do jump up I look inna the opening and I see the cripple man di hop out. But while watching the cripple man, I see wah big flame so I ask him where is Mr. Baird? He say, Mr. Baird supposed to dead inside. So I still stand up and wonder what I could do to help Mr. Baird. Nothing I could have done and I jump over the next side and hail the watchman.”

The cripple man Thomas spoke about is fifty-eight year old Gilbert Domingo who slept just a few feet away from Baird. Domingo says it was the glare of the fire that alerted him to danger.

Gilbert Domingo, Baird’s Roommate

“I heard his last cries, but that time his whole surroundings, and his bed was on fire, high fire. So he supposed to have been in the middle of the fire.”

Fire Chief Henry Baizar says not even quick response from the department could have saved Baird.

Henry Baizar, Fire Chief

“Arriving at the scene we found that the place was already in flames. Actually it?s only the bed of the deceased. From our understanding and from our investigation reveal that Mr. Baird used a candle and we have the remains of the candle and the container that it was in, that was in the bed and apparently he went to sleep and did never out the candle. And the candle catch the mattress and he got burned in the bed.”

Lionel Waight

“The clothes weh he mi have on burn off and everything. He noh have no eyes or anything cause the fire burn out the thing, he left like a skeleton, like a mummy.”

Waight says that as a sanitation worker with the Belize City Council, he is aware that the building has been sealed off, but that somehow a group of homeless men and women gained access to the structure and were living there, in some cases for over a year. Patrick Jones for News 5.

Baizar says the Fire Department, working with the City Council, had carried out an assessment of the building and concluded that the owners, Richard and Martha Belisle, should either refurbish the structure or demolish it. Baird’s mother says that the father of one will be buried on Friday.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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