The Luzerne County coroner Wednesday released the names of two men killed when fire raged through their apartment in Wilkes-Barre.
The men are identified as William Aponte and Jose Herrera. The coroner’s office blamed their deaths of carbon monoxide from breathing in too much smoke.
The fire forced almost a dozen people out of the apartment house on Pine Street, but fire victims said the death toll could have been higher.
“I am very lucky. I pray to God for that too. I am very lucky to be alive today,” said fire victim Jim Johnson. He is living in a motel courtesy of the American Red Cross. He knows he came close to losing his life in the fire. “All I know I was sleeping and the guy who was in 213, he was the one who grabbed me out of the house. He saved my life.”
Johnson’s future is uncertain. “I need help to find another place to live. I don’t have family up here. I am from North Carolina,” Johnson added.
There is not much left of the apartment where Aponte and Herrera lived. A state police fire marshal knows the blaze started there but isn’t sure of the exact cause.
As the investigation continues, friends mourn the loss.
“Buildings are buildings. Two people died of fire. That’s a horrible thing. I can fix the building. I can tear it down, I can do anything. I can’t help the two poor guys that died,” said property manager Rick Tattersall. “They were great friends. They were here about seven years. This is their spot, they made this little spot. They’d sit here, have a couple of beers and listen to their music. They couldn’t be nicer guys.”
A neighbor brought a cross to the fire scene to honor Aponte and Herrera.
“Do they have family? Does anyone care about them? Who is there for them? They only had this place, they had nothing else,” friend Kathy Evans said. “They were good people. They would play their music loud and sometimes it would get on my nerves and other people’s nerves , but they were sweet people.”
Officials are asking for help in finding relatives of Aponte and Herrera. Anyone with information is asked to call the Luzerne County coroner’s office.
“I worry about Jose because he doesn’t have family in the United States and what are they going to do with his body? I understand he was in conversation with his mother in Mexico, but I don’t know the phone number,” said friend Luis Belec.
The owner of the apartment house said he doesn’t have enough insurance but wants to rebuild anyway.