Autistic Detroiter dies after becoming trapped in burning home - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Autistic Detroiter dies after becoming trapped in burning home

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By Amy Lange
Fox 2 News


DETROIT (WJBK) -- 30-year-old Tony Mitchell, a cherished son, autistic and trapped inside his burning home on Kentfield in the Brightmoor neighborhood on the city's west side.  He had awakened his mother, Beatrice, around 2:30 Friday morning to tell her there was smoke in the house.

"She got up, tried to get them both out of the house, but he had to use the bathroom and somehow got caught in the bathroom," said Ronnie Griffin.

He said his nephew saved his mother's life, but because of his special needs he could not save his own.  His mother and neighbors sure tried.

Neighbor Richard Bryant grabbed a shovel, ran across the street and started knocking out windows trying to get to Tony, but he just couldn't reach him.

There were no fire trucks, at least not for a few minutes when every second counted, even though Engine 57 is just six blocks away, a two minute response time.  It was closed for the day due to the city's financial problems.  Instead Ladder 26 and Engine 54 had to come from two miles away still making it in an impressive four minutes, but it was too late.  They tried to find Tony, but couldn't locate him until they put the fire out.

"Within a half a mile of the station, we have 2,000 students and three schools.  We've got 28 churches," said Peter Lisiecki.

He also explained that within a mile and a half of Engine 57 are 50,000 residents and 400 businesses.

Lisiecki is with a coalition of community activists who met with the fire commissioner before the holidays to try to convince him to reopen Engine 57 full time.  It's clearly a matter of life and death.

"This fatality shows about how urgent the matter is," Lisiecki said.  "We can't afford to wait."

We heard from the commissioner that the cause of the fire appears to be electrical.

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