I live at the based of the tower that burned. That night, my wife was out walking our dog. She saw the smoke, and immediately phoned me on my cell phone, asking "What's up with the Galaxy?" I dunno, why? "You'd better get the hell outta there... Grab [our child] and whatever you can. Take your phone and find me out front." As I put our baby in the sports stroller and resupplied the diaper bag, flaming rain (molten aluminum window framing) pelted all three of our private patios. LBFD arrived within 3 minutes of being called, and had the fire completely extinguished in just over half hour. During that time, John Crews loudly cursed at the fire department and repeated over and over that he did not want to die. Seconds before firefighters got inside his unit, John Crews caught fire and jumped off of his 18th floor balcony. About 4 seconds later, his body hit hard just outside of our middle patio, setting some of the bushes on fire.
But here's what the papers never published... a week before the fire, Crews' drunken and philandering wife announced her intention to divorce him after 32 years of marriage (they'd been separated for a few years, originally so that she could care for her mother in Grass Valley, but ultimately to stay with her lover). Two days before the fire, Crews (a chain-smoking drinker himself) vowed aloud in the stairwell (he found the elevators to be "too crowded"), "That's it! She ain't gonna get my place."
Ironically, his widow did get his place, and even made openly disparaging remarks about him at his memorial. Presumably to collect some accidental death benefit or other, she pressured the fire department to report that he "fell" rather than what I (and others present) eyewitnessed. She was not present. Meanwhile, she still continues to dramatize her "loss" and pushes the city council to require unafforably expensive (and possibly even dangerous, given the building-wide electric ceiling heat) sprinkler retrofits for all older buildings like ours (the Galaxy predates the fire code which requires sprinklers). So as tragic as this incident reads in the paper, it'll be even more tragic if condo owners are forced to lose their homes for not being able to comply with manadatory fire sprinklers (estimates exceed $60k per unit). Hey, buddy! Could you spare $500/mo for the next decade?
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Photo taken in Bluff Park, Long Beach, CA, USA
Misplaced? Suggest new location