DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been more than 48 hours since a 7-alarm fire tore through a North Dallas condominium complex. Fire crews made a discovery early this morning as they continued battling hot spots.
Well before sunrise, the Urban Search and Rescue Team and members of Dallas Fire Rescue (DFR) found a dead body in the debris at the Preston Place Condominiums.
Because of the intensity of the flames, building collapses and continued hot-spot flare ups, rescue crews had been unable to search for 89-year-old Jacqueline McDonald, who is believed to have been trapped in the rubble.
While there has been no official identification of the body, McDonald suffers from dementia and hasn’t been seen since Friday night. McDonald lives in a unit on the top floor of the complex, but the floor in that area has collapsed. Officials with DFR confirmed that the body was found underneath — on the 2nd level — where the woman lived.
Right before DFR released information about the body, two members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team could be seen literally digging around on the 3rd floor.
Since the building is in danger of collapsing, DFR took special precautions to get the team inside safely. “They were able to put an aerial ladder, with a basket, over the area where the woman lived and they spotted what they believed to be part of a body,” explained DFR spokesperson Jason Evans. “From there, they took measures to lower rescue inside and that’s where they actually did find the body.”
It was several hours before the discovered body was removed and the identification will take some time. The Dallas County Medical Examiner will make an official identification.
On Sunday firefighters continued to find new smoke coming from parts of the three-story building.
Vehicles remain trapped in the flooded garage, beneath the first floor. As it stands, there are partial collapses continuing throughout the building and it isn’t clear if they can be saved.
More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze that broke out just before midnight Friday at the complex in the 6200 block of West Northwest Highway.
Joey Davenport lived at the complex and said when he and his family woke, grabbed a few things and tried to alert other residents as they made their way out. “We were knocking on doors, as many as we could before we left,” he said. “People were still sleeping. They didn’t know.”
Firefighters rescued residents who couldn’t make it out on their own. The fire at the 60-unit complex has displaced about 100 people.
This morning the building’s frame is charred, but still standing.
The cause of the fire isn’t yet known, but DFR officials say their initial investigation suggests the fire started in the walls and spread throughout the building — hidden from view.
The Red Cross is helping survivors.