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1 killed, 5 injured in Ambridge apartment fire

| Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 5:18 p.m.

Quick-thinking Ambridge residents with ladders and mattresses managed to rescue several people from a smoky apartment fire on Sunday evening that left one person dead and five injured.

As police and firefighters were arriving at the burning John F. Kennedy Apartments in the 200 block of First Street, neighbors piled mattresses on the lawn and set up ladders so people could jump or climb from the second and third floors, where they'd been trapped by thick black smoke.

“My neighbor and her kids were carrying mattresses across the street and urging people to jump,” said Susan Butcher, 71, who credited neighbor A.J. Mixter for her heroics. “One father threw a little boy out the window (to the mattresses below). It was a terrifying sight. They are definitely, definitely heroes.” Mixter could not be reached for comment.

Ambridge police Chief James Mann said one woman in her 50s or 60s was found unresponsive in a stairwell between the second and third floors. She was declared dead at the scene. Beaver County Coroner Teri Tatolovich-Rossi said her office was still trying to reach the woman's family and could not release her identity. Mann said she appeared to live alone in an apartment in the building.

A passing police officer had noticed the smoke about 4:25 p.m. Responding officers tried to rescue tenants before firefighters arrived to take over.

“The smoke was unbelievable,” Mann said. “Officers displayed unbelievable bravery going in and out of building to save those other people.”

Five people were transported from the scene for treatment, including two children taken to Children's Hopsital in Lawrenceville. Their conditions were not known.

Ambridge fire Chief David Drewnowski said the fire appeared to have started in a second-floor apartment and was under control by 5 p.m. The damage to the building displaced 11 families, some of whom were being assisted by the Red Cross.

The state fire marshal's office was investigating the fire, and the cause wasn't immediately known.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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