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Associated Press, Published April 03 2010

Six dead in Minneapolis apartment fire

MINNEAPOLIS – A fire swept through a two-story Minneapolis building that housed several apartments and an Irish pub Friday, killing six people – including three children – who friends and family feared were a bartender and several of his girlfriend’s relatives.

Firefighters arrived shortly after 6 a.m. to find heavy flames and smoke pouring from the building, where the roof eventually collapsed, authorities said. The blaze began in one of the building’s six second-floor apartments, but the cause ­hadn’t been determined Friday evening, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel.

One woman died at a hospital early Friday and the bodies of two men and three children were later recovered from the building, city and fire officials said. Shortly after removing the last body – the third child – from the ruins, authorities said they did not expect to find more victims.

While authorities did not immediately identify the victims, the bartender’s girlfriend said her mother, her brother and his three young children had been visiting the bartender, Ryan Richner, Thursday night. Richner lived in an apartment above the bar, named McMahon’s Pub.

Champagne Gervais, 25, said her brother’s car remained in the pub’s parking lot Friday. Richner lived in an apartment above the bar, she and another bartender said.

“They were all beautiful people,” she said before breaking down sobbing as she watched crews sift through the rubble in drizzling rain Friday afternoon.

Richner’s mother said late Friday that she spoke with the medical examiner’s office and believes her son was among those who died.

“It’s not confirmed, but it’s pretty much confirmed. We know,” Denise Schmidt said during a phone interview from Long Prairie, about 100 miles north of Minneapolis.

“Everybody loved him. He was always happy and he was always the life the party,” she said, her voice breaking. “A lot of people are going to miss him.”

Authorities found eight violations during a fire code inspection March 15 on the commercial part of the building. Among them, the pub’s fire alarm system hadn’t been tested in more than a year, and there weren’t enough fire extinguishers, said Minneapolis Fire Marshal Bryan Tyner.

The owners had until March 30 to fix the violations. Tyner said his office hadn’t yet gone back to see if changes had been made. The residential portion of the building was due for an inspection, he said.

The Twin Cities chapter of the American Red Cross was helping eight adults and five children displaced by the fire, said spokeswoman Carrie Carlson.

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