Family, neighbors shocked after disabled woman dies trying to escape apartment fire

Family, neighbors shocked after disabled woman dies trying to escape apartment fire

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s a sound no one wants to hear waking up Thanksgiving morning.

“A lot of calamity going on outside sirens too,” said neighbor Lionel Breaux.

As firefighters worked on a charred house, neighbors looked on hoping all would be OK, eventually realizing that wasn’t the case.

“I came out saw the coroner wagon and I was surprised,” said Breaux.

“She's been in that house for over 15 years real sweet lady real sweet this is just a tragedy,” said another neighbor.

Michelle Joseph was at work when she learned it was her wheelchair-bound sister, 62-year-old Beverly Joseph who was inside her apartment when it caught fire.

“I’m like this is not happening not today no, no this is unbelievable… I just remember her she used to be that jolly person talk to everybody tell him about the bible,” said Joseph.

“A tragic scene out here in the 1500 block of Dante Street this morning on Thanksgiving morning,” said NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell.

Neighbors next door thought it might be an electrical fire, and started unplugging appliances when they realized there was too much smoke coming from next door.

“The fire started right there near the bed so right now we have our investigators and NOPD is assisting us,” said McConnell.

McConnell said firefighters responded minutes after the call came in. When they arrived, they found Joseph just inside the front door, apparently overcome by smoke.

“She had been in the bed and managed to get herself close to the door, but unfortunately she expired for firefighters arrived,” said McConnell

“Just think she's in the wheelchair trying to get out and couldn't get out,” said Joseph.

As Joseph walked through the apartment with investigators, she says she was overcome thinking how her sister fought for her life on this holiday.

“The first two rooms really burnt up… I’m like she was caught here you know and then I went to get nervous you know just to picture that you know,” she said.

Investigators believe the fire was accidental and electrical in nature caused by an overloaded power strip with a space heater plugged in.

Neighbors next door were also displaced, but no one else was injured.

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