CHARLOTTE — A 30-year-old construction worker died in a huge fire that broke out Thursday morning at a multi-story apartment building under construction near the SouthPark Mall, family members confirmed with Channel 9.
Demonte Sherrill was one of the two construction workers who were unaccounted for immediately after the fire.
Demonte Sherrill was a father of four children, ages 5 to 13, his parents said.
“I’m still in shock,” said his mother, Onita Sherrill. “Numb really. Numb about the whole situation.”
The fire department has not released any names or commented on any deaths.
“The search process can be lengthy,” Charlotte fire tweeted. “We can not confirm a loss of life. This fire has been difficult for our community, and our firefighters continue to diligently work on scene to find answers.”
Another construction worker remains unaccounted for.
The Charlotte Fire Department responded to the scene on Liberty Row Drive near Fairview Road shortly after 9 a.m..
Fire officials struck a fifth alarm shortly before 10 a.m.
‘A good man’
Demonte Sherrill’s father, Terry Campbell, said he rushed to the scene after Onita Sherrill told him about the fire.
“Went to the scene and all the smoke … I mean, I couldn’t watch,” Campbell told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts. “I couldn’t watch it.”
Not too long after that, Demonte Sherrill’s boss told Campbell his son didn’t make it out of the fire alive.
“Then I got in contact with his bossman and that’s when his boss let me know it was him,” Campbell said.
Demonte Sherrill’s mother said she watched the final moments of her son’s life on a Facebook Live with him pleading for help and praying that he would find a safe space.
“I was hoping but just from the (Facebook Live), and the way the room filled up with smoke, I didn’t see it being any hope at that time,” she said.
Demonte Sherrill’s parents said he was a good man who worked hard to provide for his children.
“He got that job, and he was doing real good at it, so I was very, very proud of him,” Campbell said.
“He was a good man,” Onita Sherrill said. “A loving father. (A) caring person and he just wanted to be with his children, his family.”
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A crane operator spotted two people working on windows and tried to swing a basket over to them to help, but the smoke and fire made the rescue too difficult. Channel 9 has not confirmed that Demonte Sherrill and the other construction worker were those two people.
“We had two workers on the building on the left side that were on the sixth and seventh floor,” said Alexa Escobar, a construction worker. “Our crane operator let us know he could see two people on the balcony on the fourth floor, as well. We got the crane over there on the basket and tried to get them into the basket so we could get them down but that is when the smoke started to get blacked out and we had no view of them.”
Escobar told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno that her two co-workers always came in early and stayed late to provide for their families.
A firefighter climbed up to help the crane operator safely climb down the ladder shortly before 11 a.m. The operator did not appear to be hurt.
Most of the flames were out by noon as firefighters continued to put out hot spots as several roads in the area remained closed.
At about 1 p.m., the Charlotte fire chief said two workers were missing.
First responders rescued 15 people.
The fire started on the second floor, according to witnesses.
A foam spraying machine caught fire and spread to the floors above, a construction worker told Channel 9.
The investigation into the cause continues.
This is a developing story, check back at wsoctv.com for updates.
VIDEO: Construction worker rescued from top of crane during massive fire in SouthPark
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