Elderly woman dies in high-rise fire at Roosevelt building while trying to escape

PITTSBURGH — An elderly woman died in the high-rise fire Sunday night at the Roosevelt building.

The victim’s granddaughter says she was living on the 14th floor, the top floor of the building and was able to make it down to the fifth floor through the stairwell where she collapsed and died.

The victim’s family told us their loved one was hurt in a fire at the Roosevelt building in January 2022 and she asked to be moved from the 14th floor to a lower floor so she could easily get out in the event of an emergency. Her family told Channel 11 she was left on the top floor.

The Medical Examiner’s office later identified the victim as 80-year-old Barbara Johnson.

Neighbors say they’re extremely saddened this fire turned deadly. A second person was also rushed to a hospital in critical condition.

“That is definitely difficult,” resident Joshua Taylor told Channel 11. “I found that out last night.”

Neighbors describe the night as chaotic.

“The fire alarm went off and went down the stairs and there were just flames coming out of the windows,” Samantha Kowal told Channel 11.

The American Red Cross is helping 75 people and one pet inside the convention center. Other neighbors are staying in hotels or with family and friends. So many people lost everything.

“I am going to have to get a hotel room for as long as we can’t be here,” Taylor added. “I don’t know how long that is yet. I have no clue.”

Jean Brothers moved to the Roosevelt building after a deadly fire at Midtown Towers forced her out of her home in 2017. She says a sprinkler system installed in the Roosevelt building following the deadly Midtown Towers fire likely saved lives.

“Thank God,” Jean Brothers said. “I’m blessed, I’m blessed because it could be a whole lot worse.”

Channel 11 reached out to property management at the Roosevelt Building, but we have not yet heard back as of our report. The fire marshal will investigate what started the fire in the apartment on the 12th floor.

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