Update: Anchorage police locate ‘person of interest’ in fatal apartment fire
Last updated at 12:55 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 2
Anchorage police have made contact with Andrew Eknaty, according to an updated release sent out Thursday.
“Due to the mulitple calls police received from the public, detectives were able to locate and make contact,” police wrote.
Eknaty was not arrested and currently faces no charges in connection with the fire, Anchorage police spokeswoman Renee Oistad confirmed.
The Anchorage Police Department is requesting the public’s help in locating a man that may have information about the Spenard apartment fire that killed three people last month.
Andrew John Eknaty, 28, has been named as a “person of interest” in the fire, which is being investigated as an arson and homicide.
“We believe Andrew has information that would be helpful to the investigation so we are asking him to contact us,” APD spokeswoman Renee Oistad clarified.
Witness testimony led fire officials to investigate the fire as a potential arson, according to fire spokeswoman Jodie Hettrick. The investigation team has included at least 24 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and two investigators from the state fire marshal’s office, as well as Anchorage’s only fire investigator.
Oistad said it quickly became clear that the fire was intentionally set.
“We were able to come to that conclusion within a few days of conducting interviews and looking at the evidence, and ATF really helped us out quite a bit in narrowing things down in what we had and why we knew we had a certain situation,” Oistad explained.
Crews were originally called to the Royal Suite Lodge around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 15. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene and at least 15 were taken to four Anchorage-area hospitals to be treated for injuries.
Vivian Hall, 63, was killed in the blaze. Her roommate, 70-year-old Laura Kramer, later died at a Seattle hospital as the result of her injuries.
Those displaced have been offered a one-month stay at the Black Angus Inn by the building’s owner. The American Red Cross of Alaska has also been assisting the displaced victims, and donations of money and clothing have poured in from the community.
Some residents of the Royal Suite Lodge expressed concern following the fire, saying they rarely felt safe in their own home. Others said the fire alarm was often falsely set off at the building, to the point that many of the residents didn’t believe there was an actual fire until flames and smoke already engulfed part of the building, forcing some to jump from upper floor windows to escape, including Nua’s family.
“She was literally half hanging out the window, screaming at the top her voice, ‘Save me! Help me! Help me!’” resident Brieanna Brooks said, describing one victim. “You knew in seconds she was going to have to make that decision: Do I die of smoke inhalation or burn to death, or do I jump?”
So far no arrests have been made in the case.
“We’re not ready to talk about collection or the nature of the investigation as far as what type of information we have so far,” Oistad said. “We are still conducting interviews and that’s all information that we would prefer to hold onto until an arrest is made.”
Anyone with information about Eknaty’s location is asked to call police at 907-786-8900 or Crime Stoppers at 907-561-7867.
Updates will be added to this developing story. Follow complete coverage on KTVA 11 News tonight at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
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