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3 Workers Killed in High-Rise Blaze

Monday, December 15, 2014

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Three subcontractors trapped underground in a storage tank were confirmed dead after a Dallas skyscraper fire that forced the evacuation of nearly 2,800 people.

The victims were found after the fire Thursday (Dec. 11) at the 50-story Thanksgiving Tower in downtown Dallas. It took firefighters several hours to recover the bodies.

OscarEsparza
Family via gofundme

Oscar Esparza's friends are raising money for funeral expenses. Esparza was one of three victims.

"There were several factors, including visibility and heat, [that] kept firefighters from immediately being able to enter," Dallas Fire-Rescue (DFR) spokesperson Jason Evans said.

The deceased were identified as Nicacio Carrillo, 60; his nephew Luis Carrillo, 43; and Oscar Esparza-Romo, 36. All worked for an as-yet-unidentified subcontractor of Best Mechanical Inc., an HVAC contractor based in Seagoville, TX.

Welders at Work

The men, all welders, were working deep inside a thermal storage tank on the second level of the tower's underground garage when the fire broke out about 11 a.m., authorities said.

Because DFR believed the fire was electrical, firegfighters had to wait for power to the entire building to be shut off before attacking the blaze, NBC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate reported.

Evans said the smoke was too thick at first to determine where the blaze originated.

Nicacio and Luis Carrillo
Family via NBC-DFW

Victims Nicacio Carrillo (left) and nephew Luis Carrillo were "good guys," a relative said.

“But when firefighters made their way to the source of the smoke, it turned out to be located in an equipment room, located at the bottom of a 35-foot hatch, on a lower parking garage level,” Evans told the Dallas Morning News.

The cause of the fire and point of ignition remained under investigation.

Evacuation

About 2,800 people were evacuated from the glass tower while firefighters brought the three-alarm blaze under control. A few minor injuries were reported.

Occupants were allowed back in about 2:30 p.m. to retrieve their belongings and cars, the Dallas Office of Emergency Management said.

ThanksgivingTowerFirefighters
Dallas Office of Emergency Management

Heavy smoke prevented firefighters from finding the victims until after the blaze was out.

Best Mechanical spokeswoman Cheri Torres told WFAA.com that the victims "did have safety equipment and did have evacuation procedures."

Permits Questioned

Assistant Fire Chief Ted Padgett told the Dallas Morning News that Thanksgiving Tower’s permit for welding, cutting and hot works expired in March of this year.

"A contractor doing business as 'Best Mechanical' at 1601 Bryan Street (the flip side of the same building) also hasn’t had a valid permit to do that kind of work since December 2009," the paper said, paraphrasing Padgett.

'No Words'

Esparza left a wife and four children.

The family's friends have begun a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Esparza's funeral expenses. As of mid-day Friday, the site had raised $1,565 of its $8,000 goal.

"We have no words to describe what we are now going through," the site said.

No additional information was immediately available about the Carrillos.

But a relative, Gabriel Carrillo, told one news outlet: “I love the guys. The guys are good guys. I know he tried to (have a) better life every day."

   

Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Confined space; Fatalities; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; Subcontractors

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