SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A total of five victims have been recovered from an apartment complex in San Marcos that caught on fire last week, according to the San Marcos fire marshal on Monday.
“As a community, our hearts are broken. We’ve lost so much — we’ve lost the love, energy, optimism and potential of these young souls,” said San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides.
Investigators said they discovered three bodies at the Iconic Village apartments at 222 Ramsay St. on Sunday, two days after a devastating fire ripped through multiple buildings of that complex and damaged another building at the nearby Vintage Pads apartments.
A fourth body was found prior to Monday’s press conference. Officials announced Monday evening that a fifth body was recovered. All of the bodies were found in Building 500.
Officials say 200 people were displaced, some of whom had to jump from upper floors to escape the flames.
While officials have not identified the deceased, five residents of the apartment complex are missing. Their names are James Miranda, Haley Frizzell, Belinda Moats, David Ortiz and Dru Estes.
Several media outlets in various cities have reported some of the victims are from their area. According to media reports from San Angelo, Texas, Haley Frizzell, 19, was one of the Texas State University students who is presumed dead in the fire.
Her brother, Brian Frizzell, who also attends the university, posted on Facebook stating “My sweet, sweet little sister, Haley Frizzell, my best friend in the world, the best person I know, is no longer with us.”
The San Angelo Times reports Frizzell was staying at the apartment with Zachary Sutterfield, who was one of the six people injured. According to a spokesperson with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Sutterfield remains in critical condition at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Frizzell and Sutterfield both graduated from the same high school in San Angelo in 2017, according to the San Angelo Times.
KPRC in Houston reports one of the missing, David Ortiz, is originally from Pasadena, Texas. The FOX affiliate in Houston reported when Ortiz’s mother couldn’t get a hold of him, she dropped everything and drove up to San Marcos.
Texas State student Branson Fairbrother says he knows two of the complex residents who have been listed as missing.
“It’s surreal,” Fairbrother said. “It’s made me value my own life much more.”
Fairbrother says Monday he hopes there were no other fire victims that have been unaccounted for other than the five residents.
“I’m having high hopes that there’s no more, the only thing is guests, you know, and pets,” he said.
One Texas State student who’d lost hope that he would find his pet ball python said he got a call from animal control Monday, that it had been found.
“I’m lucky he made it out,” said David Guerra. “That’s helping. That gives me some sort of thing I can control in my life.”
He added, having his snake back is giving him the strength to move forward.
“He’s resilient, just like me,” Guerra smiled.
On Monday investigators said search and recovery continues in the complex along with a massive investigation. More than 50 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and representatives from the state fire marshal’s office joined the San Marcos fire marshal in the investigation. The San Marcos fire chief says the property management company has been helpful as they investigate.
At this point, it is not known where or how the fire started. Investigators will be processing the scene at least through Friday, the San Marcos fire marshal said, and the investigation could continue for months after that.
“It’s a slow process, it is a big scene that we are working with,” said San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner. “We do not know what the total number of victims will be, so I can’t tell you how many more we are searching for. That’s why I tell you we are going to search until we know that we are done.”
Investigators know the names on the apartment leases, but that doesn’t always mean that’s the person living in the apartment in a college town where students sometimes rent by the semester.
“Where this gets more difficult is the people who had sublet a room, taken over or assumed a lease from the original occupant, people that had visitors from out of town, people who were back at home over the summer and perhaps had allowed someone else to stay at their apartment,” said San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens.
Officials are working to determine if the Iconic Village apartment buildings not damaged by fire are safe for residents to move back into. The city is hosting a resource center Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for all Iconic Village residents and those living in buildings L and M of the Vintage Pads apartments. They can learn about resources available to them and get questions answered, in addition to getting things like replacement drivers’ licenses.
Community groups say they’ve been overwhelmed by donations for the victims. The San Marcos emergency management coordinator says anyone who wants to donate can do so online at www.br3t.org and specify they want money to go to “Iconic.”