911 call released after deadly motel fire, no state fire code
SODUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Frantic 911 calls are shedding new light on the moments of panic during a deadly fire at a Berrien County motel.
Now, new information is being revealed, starting with that first call.
"I'm trying to get everyone out, but ain't nobody waking up," said one resident, frantically to Berrien County Dispatch.
It was a desperate cry for help.
"How did you notice the fire?" the dispatcher asked.
"I smelled the smoke. It smelled like plastic burning," replied the resident.
He saw the flames moments later, and knew most of the people inside the motel, were fast asleep.
"We need to get those people out of the building. Hey wake up!," cried the resident to the motel, while still on the phone with dispatch. "Ya'll need to get out of that building."
Survivors tell ABC57 News, only one sound woke them up.
"[I] got woken up by a policeman running down the hallway, banging on the door yelling fire," recalls Brandon Gage, who survived Saturday's fire.
He says he owes the police officers his life.
He has a few scratches on his arm from his risky escape.
"I jumped off of the balcony. I lowered my woman down first and then I jumped down," Gage says. "We didn't even know there was a fire until there were flames in our faces."
Why was that?
In the last inspection, the not working fire alarms, not licensed or certified fire extinguishers, and locked exit doors, were supposedly cleared in May 2016.
But what about after that?
On the state of Michigan website, ABC57 news found a section of laws specific to hotels, inns, and public lodging houses.
One of the sections reads "It is the duty of the inspector and his deputies...to personally inspect once a year."
ABC57 News finally heard back from the state of Michigan regarding the state code on fire inspections.
The following email is from a representative from the LARA department:
"There is no State of Michigan fire code standard on the frequency of hotel/motel fire inspections. You mentioned having a fire inspection report from 2016. Yes, the State of Michigan, Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) did an inspection in 2016. BFS would not typically handle this type of an inspection, as hotels and motels are not a regulated occupancy by the State of Michigan, Bureau of Fire Services. However, the local authority having jurisdiction (for building as well as fire inspections) requested assistance from BFS as the locals did not have a fire code in place or a local fire inspector at that time."
ABC57 News read the law and section regarding the inspections, from the state website. The representative told ABC57 News she had not heard of it and could not comment. The representative told ABC57 she would check in on the law and follow-up.