An early morning fire burned through an apartment near 2nd Avenue and Southern Tuesday. One woman was trapped inside -- too weak to get out on her own. Neighbors desperately tried to save her, but tragically, she died in the fire.
The apartment's security screen door was locked from the inside and it prevented the woman's neighbor's from getting her out alive.
It was just a horrific scene -- chaos erupted before dawn at the Paradise Palms apartments in south Phoenix.
Neighbors heard smoke detectors go off and heard the woman screaming. Several people ran to where fire and smoke had trapped the victim in her second floor unit.
"I seen the apartment engulfed in flames.. I grabbed a rock and threw it and I saw her at the door.. she was on fire.. we just started getting extinguishers and trying to put her out," said Manuel Soto. "She was just balled up by the door, screaming for water. She was saying, 'Water, water.' I said, 'Just reach up and unlock it.' She couldn't move."
Anthony Fritz added, "Everybody came out.. tried to get all the fire extinguishers.. started tossing them up.. to do what they could."
Finally, the men just started kicking and beating on the security door. It finally broke away and they were able to pull the woman onto the landing. She was badly burned.
"Unfortunately, she succumbed to her injuries.. probably smoke inhalation and did not make it," said Tony Muir of the Phoenix Fire Department.
The security door had a thumb turn lock, but the woman didn't turn it.
"It was a twist one, but it was on the inside and she was right there and at that time, she was a little too weak to reach up and unlock it," said Roscoe Young.
Who was the woman who died? Neighbors say her name was Patricia. She was about 68-years-old and lived alone.
"She was loveable. Everybody loved her. There wasn't nothing she wouldn't do. I used to help clean her apartment. She was just a nice person and I just hate she went the way she did," said Linda Green.
Young feels regret that though they did everything in their power, they couldn't save her.
"I think if we could have got that door open maybe two or three minutes sooner, she wouldn't have caught afire.. that's what's gonna haunt me."
I think this morning is going to haunt a lot of residents for some time.
I talked to Phoenix Fire Dept. officials and they say this is the second fatality in an apartment fire in the last few days.
Fire moves rapidly. There is one way in and one way out and the added challenge is the health problems this woman was living with.
Investigators are still looking into what caused the fire.
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