Fire destroys HIV support office

A prisoner who eluded his guard at Mount St John’s Medical Centre in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning was back at the medical institution later in the day, after he was pulled from a fire he allegedly set in the Ramco Building.

Firefighters found Brian Spencer standing in the front entrance of the downstairs office that housed the Health, Hope and HIV Foundation Inc (HHH/3H), with a torch light in his hand.

Spencer who suffered minor burns about the body, reportedly put up a fight when rescuers tried to evacuate him.

Police sources said he will be charged with escaping lawful custody and arson.

The fire, which gutted the 3H Foundation, started at around 4:20 am Tuesday.

A man who resides on Independence Drive, opposite the building, told this newspaper he saw “thick, dark smoke” coming from the front office and called 911 to make a report.

“I smelled the smoke because the wind was blowing it right into my home,” the man said. “I came out and saw the building on fire, called for help and then went over to get a closer look.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he did not see anyone inside because it was dark and the area was “full of smoke.”

He added, “I noticed that the front window was broken; that’s where the smoke was coming out from, and there was a big concrete block on the ground in front of it.

“The main door at the front was still locked and I walked around and checked the whole area and did not see any other opening. When the firemen came, they went in and they took out a man and he was shouting and fighting,” the eyewitness said.

Spencer was returned to the hospital, where he is under close guard, receiving treatment for his burns.

When The Daily OBSERVER arrived at the Ramco Building, Acting President of 3H Sinclair Williams was walking through the rubble, salvaging items not damaged by fire or water.

He called the fire “senseless” and said he didn’t know the motive behind the act.

Williams also expressed relief that clients’ personal documents were not destroyed.

Programme Manager of 3H Reverend Karen Brotherson said the incident disrupted services to clients; however, operations should resume tomorrow, on the top floor.

“We couldn’t get any work done (yesterday)  morning but we’ve spoken with Dr (Prince) Ramsey and are now in the process of relocating from downstairs to upstairs,” Reverend Brotherson said.  “My office, the administrative office, was not burned so all our clients’ documents and records are safe, but the other offices were burned and the computers which were not burned would be damaged by water.”

She expressed gratitude to the people who assisted in the move and clean-up process.

“I am hoping everything works out well for us … Thank God so much for files that were saved, even though the food bank, which had food for families living with HIV, was destroyed,” Reverend Brotherson added.

Owner of the building, Dr Prince Ramsey, meanwhile, thanked the Fire Department for their quick response and for containing the blaze.

“I was called early in the morning by police who were informing me there was an intruder in the Ramco Building, and, apparently, he had set the lower part of the building on fire.

“By the time I got there, the fire police had already got the fire under control, so I was very pleased they responded so quickly to the request … nothing serious has happened to the upstairs but the downstairs was gutted,” Dr Ramsey said.

Business continued as usual in other parts of the building yesterday.

Meantime, reports reaching this newspaper indicate that an investigation has been launched to determine how Spencer escaped from the hospital when a prison officer was guarding him.

Spencer was reportedly taken to the facility over the weekend after he complained of feeling unwell. He was admitted and was receiving treatment up to yesterday morning when he escaped.

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