Reminders of fatal Royal Suite fire fall as demolition begins
Wall by wall, Royal Suite Lodge is coming down. And so are the reminders of a fire that killed three people in February.
Demolition started on the building Monday afternoon and crews hope to be done by the end of the week. The company, Alaska Demolition, is having to take special precautions because of asbestos in the building. The slow pace of work was a blessing for one family, hoping to say goodbye.
Andrew Abayo rushed over to the building Monday evening with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, hoping to see their old home one last time. The family got their wish. The excavator stopped just as it was about to hit their house, number 304.
For Abayo, there are only memories left inside.
"We had no time," Abayo recalled. "'Should I grab this or should I grab that?', there was just no time. We ran out with no shoes and everything."
Abayo's daughter still recognized the apartment; his wife was in tears.
"I don't know why but it just gives us closure to move on," Abayo said. "There’s an emotional tie there that-- it’s hard for us to let go, so this helps us."
The building will soon be gone, but questions remain: who started the fire?
William Quick, a neighbor across the street, says he saw it all.
"The guy started the fire underneath the awning over there and he ran off," Quick said. "The description I gave the police was kind of like a good description but it wasn’t like a facial, just a general description of height, weight, what he was wearing."
Quick still thinks about the two elderly women who didn't make it out.
"Two of the nicest people I've ever met. And it's sad that they had to perish that way," Quick said, adding that he hopes the building owner will hire security to monitor the apartments.
"It terrifies me, you know, even though I wasn’t sleeping, all these people were sleeping-- how would you like to be waking up at 2 o’clock in the morning with somebody saying 'hey your building’s on fire," Quick said.
Abayo's family may have lost everything, but they escaped the fire with something priceless: their ability to walk away.
"Our kids are doing good, they’re happy and healthy and we have our lives," Abayo said. "There needs to be justice for the families that lost their loved ones."
Anchorage Police say no one has been charged in the suspected arson. The investigation is still open.
David Kim, general contractor for the Royal Suite Lodge, says the owner wants to rebuild. Kim says he's going through a review process with the city and hopes to have a similar apartment complex up by the end of next summer.