Man plummets to death during apartment fire

by: Rick Price Updated:

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SEATTLE - Seattle police are calling it a "bizarre" incident. Shortly after 1 o'clock Wednesday morning, they got a 911 call about a man yelling on the ninth floor of University West. That's a low-income housing project in the U-District. 

When officers got to the door of the unit, they smelled smoke. They had to force the door open because it was barricaded with heavy objects behind it. 
Detective Mark Jamieson said, "officers desperately tried to get the man inside out. He would not come." 

They started evacuating other residents as smoke filled the floor. While they were doing so, the man living in the burning apartment either jumped or fell from his window. He died when he hit the ground. 
Firefighters then discovered that there was a second man on the floor of the burning apartment. 

Spokesman Kyle Moore said, "he was in the room for five to 10 minutes breathing all those toxic fumes." 

The 44-year-old man was rushed to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and burns to his arms. He's in serious condition in intensive care. 
The King County Medical Examiner has not confirmed the identity of the man who died.

Another tenant of the apartment building said his first name was Reuben and that he lived at University West for several years. 

Richard Crooks said he had breakfast with Reuben Tuesday. He said the man was "very upbeat." They talked about politics and the weather. There was no indication of trouble whatsoever from Reuben. 

Seattle police said the fire was intentionally set. Detectives are still trying to figure out who torched the apartment and why.