LAS VEGAS (KXNT) – The man who perished along with his 8-year-old daughter and the girl’s mother in the deadliest fire in Las Vegas Fire and Rescue history was the maintenance man at the apartment complex where they died and may have failed to replace his own apartment’s smoke detector following a previous fire, according to the results of a department investigation released Thursday.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the January 19th fire at the Westlake Apartments on West Lake Mead Boulevard that claimed the lives of Andrew Ray, Diana Rose Bankston and their 8-year-old daughter Kaysha, LV Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said.
A 15-year-old girl and her 16-year-old sister escaped through a back window of the apartment and survived the blaze.
Investigators believe the fire broke out just after midnight in the living room of the small two-bedroom apartment. Diana Bankston, 37, was asleep on a sofa in the living room and suffered extreme burns and smoke inhalation, Szymanski said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ray, 39, was asleep in a back bedroom with the 8-year-old. The investigation determined the child likely awoke first and attempted to reach her mother before succumbing to the smoke. Ray probably woke moments later and found the room completely filled with thick black smoke and extreme heat.
Ray broke out the bedroom window to the courtyard behind the apartment, then went back around to the front of the apartment and tried to get inside.
Arriving firefighters found Ray lying in the front yard and Kaysha in the apartment’s hallway. Both were admitted to University Medical Center with suffering from critical burns and smoke inhalation. The child died later that day, Ray a few days later.
No working smoke detectors were found in the house. While investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the fire, it is believed to have been accidental in nature, Szymanski said.
Ray worked as one of three maintenance repairmen for the complex and had been part of a major effort to bring the building into compliance following an investigation by Las Vegas Fire and Rescue last year.
The department’s Fire Prevention Division was alerted last May after a tenant was stuck in her apartment with a broken door knob. Responding firefighters found a back window screwed shut, barring the tenant from being able to escape in the event of an emergency.
Inspectors found three violations and a notice was issued to the management firm, warning that all barred windows must have interior release latches, exit doors could not be chained or locked, and that working smoke alarms must be installed in all apartments.
Ray helped coordinate that effort and the complex was found to be in compliance when inspectors returned two weeks later.
However, neighbors reported Rays family recently had a grease fire in the kitchen of their apartment. The fire was quickly extinguished and caused little damage, however, smoke damage necessitated repainting that Ray would complete, witnesses said.
It is believed that when Ray repainted the apartment, he took down the smoke alarms and most likely did not put them back up after finishing the work.
Szymanski said the three deaths represent the greatest loss of life from any fire in the history of the department in one single incident.
Renovation work on the apartment is expected to begin in a next few weeks.