British Columbia

2 bodies found during demolition of Vancouver hotel destroyed by fire

Two bodies were discovered Friday during the demolition of Vancouver's Winters Hotel, which was destroyed by a severe fire more than a week earlier.

Winters Hotel demolition crew and investigators have been proceeding carefully in the aftermath of the fire

A body was discovered by investigators and the demolition crew working at the fire-destroyed Winters Hotel on Abbott Street. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Two bodies were discovered Friday during the demolition of Vancouver's Winters Hotel, which was destroyed by a severe fire more than a week earlier.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) said the first body was found around 11:30 a.m. PT. Chief Karen Fry said a spotter noticed something on site.

"We have an experienced crew on scene contracted by the building owner and they are very precisely removing bits and pieces of debris in the areas that are the most heavily damaged," Fry told reporters on Friday.

"We have people looking from above and if they recognize something they call an immediate stop."

Just before 6 p.m. PT, VFRS confirmed a second body had been discovered in the building.

"This is a very tragic situation ... these are some of the most at risk people in our community," she said. "It was a very large, aggressive fire and it would definitely have been difficult for someone who was trapped to escape."

The fire was started accidentally by unattended candles in a second-floor suite on April 11. More than 70 residents were living in single-room occupancy (SRO) housing on the building's upper floors at the time.

Officials, including Atira Property Management, which operates the SRO, had initially said all of the occupants had been accounted for after the fire.

Since flames gutted the building and created the risk of collapse, Fry said it was not possible for crews to safely run a full-scale search of the building after the fire was extinguished.

The deceased have not been identified and the B.C. Coroners Service is investigating the deaths. VFRS said the demolition will resume Monday, with electrical power to be restored to the neighbourhood through the weekend.

The Winters Hotel on Abbott Street was destroyed in a fire on April 11, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The four-storey brick building on Abbott Street also housed several businesses and a restaurant on the ground floor. 

Another 73 tenants of the Gastown Hotel, an SRO next to the Winters Hotel, have also left their suites until further notice because of toxic smoke damage.

VFRS said the sprinkler system in the Winters Hotel was shut down and waiting to be serviced when the fire began on April 11 after another fire in the building three days earlier.

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