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April 12, 2014

Man, woman die in Crosby Avenue fire

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

A house fire took the lives of two Crosby Avenue residents early Saturday.

One male and one female resident of 60 Crosby Ave. died in the fire, which was called in at 12:23 a.m. The victims' names are being withheld until Niagara County Coroner Kenneth Lederhouse has notified next of kin. Police don't expect notifications to be completed until today or Monday.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Mike Seeloff, the fire was well in progress when firefighters arrived at the scene. A Lockport police officer who got there first had pulled the 63-year-old woman out of the house and was performing CPR on her, to no avail. With burns on her upper body and signs of smoke inhalation, it appears the woman was trying to flee the house when she was overcome by smoke, on-scene Assistant Fire Chief Matt Streckewald's report indicated.

Firefighters recovered the male victim's body from the living room/den area of the house. The fire appears to have originated in a couch, Streckewald's report said.

Firefighters extinguished the fire quickly after gaining entry through the front door and a vent cut into the roof. The initial damage estimate is $20,000, according to the report.

Renee Gunby, 37, lives next door to the home with her husband, daughter and son. When she smelled smoke, she went to the house and banged on the door, she said. When no one answered, she ran home and asked her son, Justin, 17, for the phone to call 911. 

In the meantime, Justin Gunby ran next door with his father and sister and started banging on the windows and doors, trying to get the man and woman to come out of the house. A police officer arrived, kicked down the side door and found the woman unconscious in the kitchen, he said. 

"They pulled her out and attempted CPR," Justin Gunby said. "They got no response."

John Broughton, 77, who lives across the street from the victims, said they were always willing to help out.

"They were good neighbors," he said.

The man of the house "would give you the shirt off his back," Renee Gunby added. "He was awesome. Right out of the '60s. He was the best."

Several other neighbors, who didn't want to share their names, expressed anger with members of the media who tried interviewing the family of the victims, noting that the family wanted privacy.

According to Seeloff, the assistant fire chief, the deaths are especially tragic in light of the fact that they could have been avoided. Streckewald's report indicated firefighters did not find any smoke detectors in the house.

"That's why there's always such a big push on smoke detectors. When you go to sleep, your senses go to sleep too," Seeloff said. "Smoke detectors play such a big part in getting people out early."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


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