MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis firefighters say they faced a difficult rescue during a deadly fire Wednesday morning, when a Bryant Avenue duplex went up in flames with three people trapped inside.
Firefighters said it happened in the 3300 block of Bryant Ave. S. at around 5:15 a.m. When they arrive, the fire was on the first and second floor of the duplex.
“The whole front of the building was on fire, the fire was up in the sky,” said Captain JR Klepp, who heard “cries for help, moans and screams from the second floor.”
Firefighters soon discovered three people were trapped up on the second floor of the three-alarm fire. The roof and floor of the duplex collapsed. A neighboring building also had to be evacuated when flames started spreading.
“The grass was on fire too, that’s how hot it was,” said firefighter Sean Thomas.
Thomas says one person escaped when he heard firefighters yelling through the smoke, but rescuing two others was more difficult.
A second man, Alex Franzen, was unconscious in a black wall of smoke.
“I grabbed his legs, dragged him, and said I have a victim,” said Thomas.
Then, Thomas went back in, because he says he knew he heard more screams, and that’s when he and fellow firefighters discovered 28-year-old James “Jay” Overton Beck IV, who was in the hottest part of the fire. Beck didn’t survive.
A beloved server at the Burger Jones restaurant, fellow employees say he was inseparable with his coworker and roommate Alex Franzen, 26, who is at HCMC with burns and smoke inhalation, currently in satisfactory condition.
Coworkers say they struggle to understand why one person walked out of the fire, another survived injuries, but Beck did not.
Firefighters say a rescue doesn’t mean a life is saved, due to the severity of injuries sustained in fires.
“Anyone rescued in any house fire, that is just the beginning for them,” said Klepp.
Firefighter Aaron Banks says the crew did all they could, but the loss still weighs on the department.
“It always hits home. It could be the 20th time you gone through it before, each time it feels the same way,” said Banks.
Authorities said the exact cause of the fire remains under investigation. Beck’s father, Jim Beck, released a statement to family and friends, saying he couldn’t have asked for a better son, who was kind and big hearted, and had a passion for people.
“My son is gone, only his legacy remains. To all who knew and loved him, I share your grief. Thank you so much for your kind remembrances for loving my son, we would like to meet each and every one of you and we will see Jay one day again,” the statement said.
Beck’s employer was a tight-knit second family. Parasole Restaurants say they are helping Franzen and released this statement.
“The management & staff of Parasole and Burger Jones extend their deepest condolences to Jay’s family and friends, and pray for a full and speedy recovery for Alex Franzen. Jay and Alex are highly valued employees and friends of Parasole & Burger Jones. In remembrance of Jay, Parasole has set up a fund for his surviving best friend, Alex Franzen. Donations may be made to:”
c/o Parasole Restaurant Holdings
5032 France Avenue So.
Edina, MN 55410
The funeral for James Beck will be held at Immanuel Christian Center in Fridley, Minnesota on Saturday, Sept.17, with visitation at 10 a.m. and the service at 11 a.m.