Philadelphia

Friends Describe Man Killed in North Philly Fire as Neighborhood Fixture, Great Basketball Player

Friends say the homeowner was in his mid-50s and a talented athlete who was a standout high school basketball star in the area when he was a teenager.

As loved ones continue to pay their respects to the Philadelphia firefighter who died in the line of duty Saturday, new details are emerging about the resident who also died in the blaze. 

The two-alarm fire started at a home on the 2200 block of North Colorado Street at 8:51 a.m. Saturday. Around 100 firefighters, including Lieutenant Matthew LeTourneau, responded. LeTourneau, an 11-year veteran, died after a structure inside the home collapsed on top of him. A man inside the home also died in the fire, which was placed under control after first responders battled both flames and frigid temperatures.

Officials and family members have not yet identified the man though friends and neighbors are coming forward.

“I used to see him walking his mother,” said Kotiiri Newby. “He would get up real early and walk his mom to the bus stop and she would go to work. I was just shocked.”

Friends say the homeowner was in his mid-50s and a talented athlete who was a talented basketball player. He was also a longtime fixture in the neighborhood. Newby told NBC10 they were friends for 35 years and they played basketball together.

“He was a very athletic guy,” Newby said. “He’s a very good ball player. It’s just shocking.”

James Hoyle told NBC10 he and his neighbor were high school classmates. Hoyle said he had trouble sleeping after learning about his death.

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“It’s the first time I ever witnessed something like that,” Hoyle said.

Melvin Carter witnessed the fire from across the street and tried to help.

“Red flames just gushing out the first floor windows,” Carter said. “Just gushing out, raising them to the sky.”

Carter said he knocked on doors to get people out but the flames were too intense for him to go inside.

“I knew he was in there because he was always there,” Carter said. “Nothing I could do though.”

Local and federal investigators spent Sunday working around the home, searching for evidence to try and figure out both the cause as well as the origin of the deadly fire. Friends of the victim meanwhile continue to cope with the loss.

“I’ve seen a lot in my time,” Hoyle said. “But this here was real devastating.”

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