Victim in Shadyside high-rise fire ID'd; Dozens remain displaced

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PITTSBURGH - Authorities have identified the 60-year-old man who died in a fire at the Amberson Tower Condominium building in Shadyside Thursday morning.

Firefighters found Mark Williams’ body near the source of the fire in a fifth-floor Bayard Street apartment, Fire Chief Darryl Jones said. Investigators said deputies were scheduled to evict Williams on Thursday morning.

According to Jones, the blaze was caused by a natural gas explosion, and that a gas line from Williams’ stove was detached.

“It’s my assumption he was the only one there and did this on his own,” Jones said.

Eve Bauer, who lived next to Williams, told Channel 11’s Jodine Costanzo that she is still shaken up more than 24 hours after the fire.

“It’s dreadfully upsetting. He destroyed people’s belongings and turned lives upside down,” Bauer said Friday.

Channel 11 News has learned that Williams lived alone and had financial problems.

In 2009, Williams failed to pay condo maintenance fees, and two years later the condo association sued him for more than $15,000 they say he owed.

In June 2012, his unit went up for sheriff’s sale and was bought by the condo association. He was served an eviction notice on Feb. 22 ordering him to vacate the property Thursday by 11 a.m.

“I didn’t see this coming, but he did say he wasn’t leaving,” Bauer said.

Tom Korpar, 24, a second year dental student at the University of Pittsburgh, said he slept in on Thursday but most days he's awake and cooking breakfast in his kitchen, which shares a wall with the apartment that caught fire. Korpar said the explosion left a gaping hole in his kitchen wall with flames, smoke and rubble.

“I woke when I heard an explosion that shook the walls,” Korpar said. “I went out and I could see through the wall into the other apartment. I guess I was lucky. Most days, I would have gotten up at my regular time and I would have been right there, cooking eggs.”

Korpar described Williams as “reclusive, very difficult to talk to,” and said he had only spoken to him in passing two or three times in the past year that he'd lived there. Neighbors said there was a confrontation between building management and Williams on Wednesday and there was a note posted on his door saying he was scheduled for eviction on Thursday.

The fire department instituted its “high-rise plan” after the call came in at about 7:15 a.m., Jones said. The fire was contained in the originating apartment at least partially because units in the building are designed to be fire-resistant, he said.

Authorities said dozens of people were evacuated, most of whom stayed in the lobby, although about a dozen moved to the Winchester Thurston School nearby.

“We heard the alarms going off across the street and opened the door and saw there was smoke pouring out of the building and people starting to come downstairs and come outside,” said Bob Walton, a maintenance man at Winchester Thurston. “I thought these people are going to freeze so we told them to come inside out of the cold.”

While the fire was contained to the one apartment, other parts of the building did suffer smoke and heat damage, Jones said.

Officials said they’re unsure when residents will be able to return into the building.

 

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.