Man tried to save neighbor from fatal fire - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Man tried to save neighbor from fatal South Richmond fire

Billy Ward, tried to save victim in Stonewall Place apartment Billy Ward, tried to save victim in Stonewall Place apartment

Tuesday, fire investigators confirmed 82-year-old Grace Rush was found dead inside a 6th floor unit at the Stonewall Place apartments Monday night. One of the victims, just out of the hospital, is speaking about his efforts to try to save his neighbor.

Neighbors say fire crews arrived in no time, but one resident says as soon as he saw the smoke, he couldn't wait on the fire crews to show up. As folks looked on in amazement, Billy Ward couldn't just sit and watch. He ran to the 6th floor.

"Immediately I said, 'where is the fire?' They said, 'right there.' I said, 'where are the people?' They said, 'right there,' and smoke was coming out the top of the door," Ward explained.

Just out of the hospital for smoke inhalation, he describes trying to save Grace Rush by knocking on her door.

"I banged on it and banged on it, and no one answered, so I said, 'let's kick it in, let's kick it in'…Once it popped open, this big smoke, flame, all different colors just hit me in my face, knocked me down," he said.

That's when fire crews showed up.

"I told them I couldn't breathe. I think he said, 'get the hell out of here.' I just crawled back and I made it down a couple flights of steps and I don't know too much what happened after that," Ward explained.

Until now, he didn't know whether his neighbor survived. He held back tears Tuesday, even though Ward never even met the 82-year-old.

"It didn't matter. I just knew someone was on the other side of that door and I had to do something," he said.

As soon as they heard the fire alarm, Ward says residents knew just what to do. He says the apartment complex holds routine fire drills but says it doesn't make it any easier knowing one of their own never made it out.

Mostly senior citizens live at Stonewall Place. Five units there were damage. The Red Cross is providing lodging for displaced residents. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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