Residents affected by deadly apartment fire in Metro Detroit say it could have been prevented

Posted at 11:41 PM, Sep 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-03 23:56:12-04

Dozens of residents in Westland are without a home and lost everything after a fire broke out at the Willow Creek Apartments on Newburgh. 


Now many residents say they warned management about the safety of their buildings. 


They say they told management the building was not wheelchair accessible--and tonight, a woman in a wheelchair died. Another man, also in a wheelchair, barely made it out alive.


"I thought this was it for me...I'm going to die," James Mason said.


He adds he almost lost his life today after becoming trapped inside his apartment building here at the Willow Creek Apartment Complex. He couldn't get out in his wheelchair when the building caught on fire and filled with smoke. 


"I was pretty much helpless..I couldn't do anything," Mason said.


Thankfully, Mason says one of his neighbors pulled him to safety. 


But 68-year-old, Verlene Johnson, died in the fire. 


Mason's sister says she complained about the building not being safe for people in wheelchairs for years. 


"I said please take care of this in case there's a fire," Colleen Waun said. 


"Now we have a loss of life and thank God for Jane. She got my brother out. Otherwise, he would've perished as well," Waun said. 


Investigators don't know how the fire started. 


The Red Cross has responded and they have put the residents up in a hotel for the night. 


As for James Mason, he says even after his unit is repaired, he won't be living at Willow Creek. 


"For me, I just don't feel safe here," Mason said.