Senior’s body found 3 months after south Edmonton apartment fire; manslaughter charge pending – Edmonton


For months, an apartment building in the Old Strathcona area has sat fenced off and boarded up after fire razed the four-storey walkup — but inside, a tragedy was waiting to be discovered.
A man’s body was recently found inside the rubble of the January fire scene, leading to more charges against a suspect already charged with arson.The overnight fire began while officials were trying to enforce a court order at the the four-storey building at 10745 – 79 Ave. in the Queen Alexandra neighbourhood.

An apartment building at 10745 79 Ave. in south Edmonton where a fire caused extensive damage in January 2024. Image taken April 25, 2024.

Global News

Officials, including provincial bailiffs and the Edmonton Police Service tactical team, arrived during the afternoon on Thursday, Jan. 25, to carry out the court order against a man who had barricaded himself in his suite. Story continues below advertisement

Neighbours told Global News the tenant was being evicted and court records show he was in violation of an order to vacate the apartment.Negotiations took place throughout the evening and the fire broke out just before 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 26.At least seven people were taken to hospital and others rescued from balconies as the fire quickly swept through the building. On Friday, police said have they have all since recovered from their physical injuries.

2:53
7 people sent to hospital following apartment fire in Old Strathcona area

It wasn’t until over 12 weeks later that a disturbing discovery was made: a senior didn’t make it out and died in the fire.On Wednesday, Apr. 10, police said they received a missing person report for 70-year-old Ricardo Olivares.

Ricardo Olivares, 70, died in an apartment fire at 10745 79 Ave. in south Edmonton on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

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The senior’s family had not heard from him since Jan. 5 and police said they reported Olivares missing after discovering the apartment building where he lived had been damaged by fire. Story continues below advertisement

The EPS missing persons unit, with the help of Edmonton Fire Rescue Service and the EPS canine unit, conducted a further search of the wreckage on Monday, Apr. 22, and said they discovered Olivares’ remains.

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The remains were taken to the medical examiner’s office, where an autopsy two days later determined Olivares died as a result of smoke inhalation and the manner of death is a homicide.

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Residents displaced in apartment fire near Whyte Avenue search for answers

Brent Olynyk owns Trauma Scene Bio Services, an Edmonton company that specializes in the cleanup and decontamination of biohazardous situations across Alberta like crime scenes, hoarding, drug labs and in this case, instances where someone has died and their body has gone undiscovered for a length of time.He’s been doing the job for two decades and said while it’s an unfortunate tragedy a body was missed, it does happen. Story continues below advertisement

“Fire scenes are very complex and they’re very dangerous. The firefighters aren’t going to go into an area of a building that is not structurally safe to be searching,” Olynyk said.Depending on the amount of debris and materials in a fire, he said a person can be buried in rubble and nobody would ever know.“Unless somebody says there was somebody left in that building or somebody didn’t make it out, or somebody’s now reported missing, fire and police don’t have any reason to thoroughly inspect the building.”

An apartment building at 10745 79 Ave. in south Edmonton where a fire caused extensive damage in January 2024. Image taken April 25, 2024.

Global News

Olynyk explained in a situation like January’s blaze, typically the building is under the control of firefighters until their investigation is complete. If there’s a criminal element, Edmonton police will also come in to investigate.Once that process is complete, Olynyk said the property is turned over to the insurance company, who then will also usually bring in its own fire investigator before bringing in restoration companies. That process can be lengthy and in the meantime, properties can sit boarded up. Story continues below advertisement

“I don’t think there’s any one person or entity that is to blame,” Olynyk said of Olivares not being discovered for so long.“It’s just an unfortunate incident that somebody was in there and wasn’t found.”
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services acting fire chief Tiffany Edgecombe said it is a tragic situation and one firefighters would never want anyone to experience.“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the person who passed away,” she said in a statement Friday.“The members of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services are dedicated to ensuring the safety of people, property and the environment and at every call, work incredibly hard to mitigate any loss.“I know that our members feel this loss, as well.”
EFRS said it couldn’t comment further as it was an active investigation.

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EFRS confirmed a few days after the blaze that it was deliberately set. The accused was arrested while the fire was burning and later released on conditions. Story continues below advertisement

Jason Murray Zabos, 44, was already charged with mischief/obstruction of justice, arson with disregard for human life, obstructing a peace officer and disobeying a court order requiring them to vacate a ground-floor unit at 10745 – 79 Ave.Zabos was ordered not to contact or communicate in any way with the property manager or be within 500 metres of the building on 79th Avenue, except if escorted by a peace officer to collect his things. He only has one opportunity to do so, the conditions stated.He was also not allowed to possess or control any “lighters, matches, flammable or explosive substances and/or any incendiary devices. That also includes lighters and/or matches.”Zabos was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, and when he did police said he was then arrested in relation to Olivares’ death.A charge of manslaughter and a second charge of arson disregard for human life are pending, police said.Police said the director of law enforcement was notified at the time of the fire and again following the discovery of the death, and determined the incident remains outside the scope of an ASIRT review.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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