It was 20 years ago this weekend when 16 people died and several others were injured in a fire at a nursing home in Hartford.
More than 100 people lived in the nursing home, the former Greenwood Health Center. And fire officials recalled rooms so full of smoke that they could not see anything and residents in bed or in wheelchairs who could not help themselves.
One of the first people to arrive on that tragic night on February 26, 2003 was Father Joseph O’Neil, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Hartford, which is just feet away from the nursing home.
“One of the things that I learned in this human tragedy was the importance of community,” he said.
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“The biggest tragedy is the 16 people perished. But staff and the other residents there were very much affected. They lost their second family, if you will, you know, to the fire," O’Neil added.
O'Neil said he would connect with residents at least twice a month and provide spiritual support for the residents.
A then-23-year-old woman who was living there was accused of setting the fire and she said at the time that she accidentally ignited her bed sheets while flicking a lighter, according to officials.
The investigation brought about a crackdown on nursing homes that did not have sprinklers.
The complex is now the Parkville Care Center held a ceremony Friday to mark the somber date and discuss safety in nursing homes.