NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans firefighters showed up to continue their investigation today at a Gentilly home where a man lost his life on Monday just before 12 p.m. Fox 8 spoke with family members and neighbors about the man and how the family is coping.
Bobby LeDuff was working all day Monday and left again early Tuesday morning. He was shocked to hear about the passing of his neighbor.
“No. I just told. . . I just told my son...what today is Tuesday. I haven’t seen old neighbor in a while," LeDuff said.
When LeDuff pulled up to his O’Reilly street home, the well-kept porch and plants out front didn’t show signs of the tragedy that happened Monday just across the street. LeDuff processing the bad news said, “Awww man that hurts my heart. So, when the fire was last night? Yesterday?”
LeDuff’s son mentioned that he’d seen news crews around, but the family didn’t know his 76-year-old neighbor had died in a fire.
“Not thinking something was wrong because I’m more of a positive person, but I said I ain’t seen old Cle in a while and here I found this out,” LeDuff lamented.
The fire department has not yet identified the man, but relatives say his name was Cleveland Rafael.
A man and woman at the home said they live on the other side of the double where Rafael died. They were too upset to speak with Fox 8 on camera, but they were home when the fire started and the man tried to get to Rafael. However, the flames and smoke were too intense, according to the women.
Neighbors say the loss will be felt in this close-knit community.
“When he first moved there him and I got along from day one. Every time I saw him, I called him neighbor. That was his nickname. How you doing neighbor? It’s just so hard to, you know, see that he’s gone now. It’s terrible. It’s such a tragedy," LeDuff said.
Barbara Carter also lives nearby. She said, “They were always walking through the neighborhood and we would always speak. They were really, really nice. You know quiet.”
“It’s just so shocking to hear Mr. Cle is gone. He was such a nice gentleman. You know never bothered anybody," LeDuff said.
The displaced couple told us his partner in her 80s is the homeowner and is currently staying with relatives while she processes the loss of her longtime companion and her home.
“They had a grandson when my grandkids would come over they would always come over and play in the yard too. He will be missed," Carter said.
The New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) says it will do a thorough investigation as with every fatal fire.
“Nothing more to say about it just may he rest in peace. May god be with him,” said LeDuff. As loved ones grieve.
NOFD reached the scene within four minutes of receiving the call. One firefighter broke his ankle while fighting the fire.
Firefighters did rescue the family’s pet cat from the home.