Cleanup Begins after Deadly Plaza Fire, Resident Reacts to Friend’s Passing

WILKES-BARRE --- 150 people are still out of their homes tonight after a deadly fire at a high rise in Wilkes-Barre.

We learned on Wednesday the two people who didn’t make it out, died because they breathed in too much smoke.

The coroner said 55-year-old Gloria Nieves and 62-year-old Luann Gilroy both died in the fire.

High rise resident Michael Johnstone said he knew Gilroy for years. He needed to collect himself for a moment when talking about how he felt today.

“We’re breathing. Could’ve been worse for a lot of people, you know. We’re lucky. It’s just too bad, that’s all,” Johnstone said with tears in his eyes.

He told Newswatch 16 that Gilroy gave him one of his most prized possessions.

“She goes, ‘Mike, I have something to give you,’ now, remember we didn’t see each other for 30 years. She gives me a picture, the only picture I have left of my mother,” Johnstone said.

On top of that, he said he lived directly above Gilroy’s apartment, where the fire all began.

“I looked out my patio and the flames from underneath are shooting up in the air… I couldn’t see my hand from the smoke,” Johnstone said.

Other people, like Shanikqua Nelson had big plans for the day. She didn’t let the fire get in her way.

“I have a job interview, which is today, and this is kind of stressful, but I'm still going to go,” Nelson said.

People who lived in the high rise are staying with family or at at a shelter at GAR High School.

“The people here at the Red Cross and the Housing Authority are treating us wonderful,” Resident Diane Perrin said.

The fire chief in Wilkes-Barre says there was enormous damage on the fifth floor where the fire started Tuesday around noon.

The floors above that also have significant damage from heat and smoke, however, the floors below did not have as much destruction.

No one is allowed back in the building because inspectors not only have to clean the place up, but they also have to make sure the fire alarm system still works.

A state police fire marshal says the fire is not considered suspicious but has not said what caused it.

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