Father: Lack of Heat Led to Fatal North Mpls. Duplex Fire

Updated: 10/21/2015 3:02 PM
Created: 02/26/2014 7:54 PM
By: Brad Sattin

The father of the five children killed in a North Minneapolis duplex fire on Valentine's Day tearfully explained during a news conference how he tried to save his kids.

Troy Lewis, 60, says he woke up to smoke, climbed out of the window of his duplex on the 2800 block of North Colfax Avenue, and then went back into the residence looking for his seven children.

"I heard my baby call for me, Shaca, 'daddy please,' and I used my training to get my babies. I jumped out the window, and I got my babies," he said.

Lewis was able to save two of his children, 9-year-old Shaca and 5-year-old Electra. Both are recovering at Hennepin County Medical Center. His five other children, 8-year-old Christopher, 6-year-old Mary, 3-year-old Troy, 4-year-old Fanny, and 18-month-old Gwendolyn didn't survive.

Lewis tells KSTP that several rooms in the apartment he rented had no heat, so he kept them warm overnight with space heaters and a stove. Fire investigators believe a space heater likely started the fire, though the official cause is undetermined and foul play is not suspected.

Lewis says he paid rent to the management company, Mission Inn Minnesota, and it was responsible for the heat, though he says it hadn't worked in all the rooms since his family moved in last October. Lewis says he was told he was "on a waiting list" to have the heating system repaired.

Paul Bertelson, the head of Mission Inn Minnesota, denies that, saying he was never told the heat wasn't working.

Donations to the family can be made at TCF Bank in the names of Shaca and Electra Lewis.

The funerals for the other five children are scheduled for Saturday.

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