NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Minnesota man planning a quick stop in New Orleans before returning home for the Christmas holidays has been identified as the final victim of a warehouse fire that killed eight people.
Anthonie Zaleta, of Waseca, Minn., died in a Dec. 28 fire that swept through an abandoned warehouse where eight young people had taken shelter from the freezing weather outside. Friends of the victims said some of the victims were squatters who had been living in the building.
The victims, five men and three women, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a fire they lit inside the structure, according to the Orleans Parish coroner’s office.
The Times-Picayune reported Friday that Zaleta was the last victim to be identified.
“He was kind of doing his thing, being a free spirit and seeing the country,” said Sheila Zaleta, Anthonie Zaleta’s mother. “He was traveling. That’s what he wanted to do right now.”
Anthonie Zaleta hoped to enroll at Minnesota State University and earn a degree in graphic design, his mother said.
“He was very creative,” Sheila Zaleta said. “He loved to draw.”
The other victims who died in the fire, the deadliest one in the city since 1978, were young people from across the country and local neighborhoods.
Samuel Thompson, 25, came from the East Jefferson area; Jonathan Guerrero, 20, from Arlington, Texas; Jeffrey Geerts, 22, from Abbotsford, Wis.; Katie Simianer, 21, from Alliance, Neb.; and Nicole “Nikki” Pack, from Pittsburgh.
The coroner’s office said another identified victim, Melissa Martinez, 17, was from Scotts Valley, Calif. But Martinez’s mother, Rebecca Snook, said her daughter had lived in New Orleans part-time for years, and full-time for the past 18 months.
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