AN elderly disabled man died in a fire that broke out in a Morningside frail care centre yesterday morning, triggering the emergency evacuation of the remaining 14 residents.
The blaze, which started on the second floor of the Executive Frail Care centre in Colin Street at about 8am, claimed the life of David Oberholzer, 73, whose body was found later in an upstairs bedroom.
By 9am emergency services had extinguished the blaze, the cause of which is still unknown and under investigation.
The centre has 15 residents, with most using wheelchairs and walking aids to move about.
While the fire was quickly extinguished once emergency services arrived on the scene, the second floor of the duplex building was gutted.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said 14 residents had been in the dining hall on the lower floor having breakfast when the fire started.
“One of the caregivers went to an upstairs room where the deceased [Oberholzer] was later found. Because he was an amputee, he usually had meals brought to his room. While the caregiver was in the passage, she noted a cloud of thick smoke.
“The alarm was raised and all 14 occupants in the dining room were evacuated. Attempts to get to [Oberholzer] failed.
“At this stage the cause of the fire remains unknown. Fire department specialists are on the scene and we are awaiting a report from them to establish the exact cause.” In the wake of the tragedy, however, neighbours have claimed that the centre had taken in too many residents, was unsafe without fire protection, and was not properly registered as a senior citizen frail care facility.
But municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said he was unable to comment on the claims at this stage of a police probe.
“All information at our disposal will be shared with [the] SAPS as part of the investigation.”
The manager of the centre, Estelle Kemp, said until the police completed their probe, she could not make a statement.
A neighbourhood resident, Johan Pretorious, said: “We appeal to the public for donations such as clothing and bedding.”
Another nearby resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were claims the centre was not properly registered.
“Everyone knows there were a lot of problems at the centre. It was unsafe for the senior citizens. It was overpopulated. They also had no fire protection. Various people reported the poor conditions to the municipality but it fell on deaf ears.”
Metro EMS operations manager Ashwell Botha said no injuries had been sustained by the evacuated residents.
An inquest has been opened.