KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A north Knox County apartment community is mourning the loss of one of their own after a unit went up in flames Tuesday night.
According to the spokesperson for Rural Metro Fire, crews were called to the Autumn Landing apartment complex off Pleasant Ridge Road around 9:30 p.m. for a unit on fire.
When crews arrived, they found flames coming from at least one unit in the complex and one woman trapped inside. Officials said 65-year-old Connie Jones was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Before firefighters got to the scene, a few neighbors of the victim tried to help rescue her. WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with one of those neighbors, Tim Porter, who lived directly above Jones. Porter said he would often check in on Jones, or vice versa.
“Connie was our girl. Yeah, she was our girl. She would see me in the morning and (said), ‘Tim. Your stomach was messed up last night. Why’s that? You sure flushed the toilet a lot.’ Yeah she was on point about what I was doing upstairs,” Porter said.
On Tuesday night, Porter was on his couch watching TV when he heard a loud noise coming from below.
“I heard a boom and my instinct told me it was too close to my back porch, so I go out, I smell something, and go out and look and smoke is coming up out of the vent on my back porch, so I was like, ‘Connie done burning up something,'” Porter said.
Porter immediately ran to help. But, he said the whole unit was on fire.
“I tried to go in there and get her. I got so far but it was too hot,” Porter said.
Porter said he and a few others helped break down the doors and windows of Jones’ unit, trying to air out some of the smoke. He said he also grabbed several fire extinguishers trying to calm down the flames.
The other two who helped out, according to neighbors, were Walter and Ricky Johnson. Neighbors said those two and Porter tried putting towels on their heads so they could keep the smoke out of their lungs.
“I got low, and I could see the shadow, and I’m like, ‘come to my voice.’ I said, ‘this is Tim.’ She said, ‘Tim hey.’ And I was like ‘Come to me, come to my voice Connie, come to my voice.’ And I crawled in a little bit, but she just stopped responding and that’s when the gulf come up,” Porter said.
Porter said it was his instinct to run and help Jones, and he only wishes he could have done more to save her life. When firefighters arrived, he tried to help them find her.
“‘She’s in here.’ So they come running up, the apartment gulfed in flames and hey took off. They went in, in speed mode, and did the best they can. They went in there and got her out. But she was gone when they got her out,” Porter.
Porter said the images are burned into his brain and he is heartbroken everyone’s efforts still couldn’t save Jones’ life. While Porter is mourning his neighbor, he had to pack up his bags and find a temporary place to stay. The Red Cross and the apartment complex were helping him with that.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Investigators spent the entire day at the unit working to find the cause.