Fatal fire forces man to jump from apartment's second floor

CLEVELAND - Flames broke out at an apartment complex on Cleveland's east side Tuesday morning, leaving some tenants trapped inside their apartments, including one woman who couldn't get out in time, Action News' Lynna Lai reported.

Other trapped tenants were forced to make some extraordinary decisions to try to save their lives, including one man who was forced to jump from the second floor of the building because of the searing flames and thick smoke.

The man, 55-year-old Ray Friston, was lucky to survive the fall, but he did sustain severe injuries that have kept him in critical condition at Huron Hospital.

Police said they believe that the fire at East 123rd Street and Ashbury Avenue was intentionally set, and whoever did it managed to flee the scene of the crime.

"You heard a lot of screaming and hollering, glass-breaking," one tenant said. "People were saying the house was on fire."

Flames, which jolted neighbors awake and sent them scrambling to escape, poured out of the row of apartments.

"They kept hollering that somebody was still in there," apartment complex resident Joseph Barnes said. "All I could see was a bright light of flames."

One woman, whose name has not yet been released by the coroner, became trapped in her upstairs bedroom and died as a result of the fire.

Arson investigators were at the scene Tuesday night sifting through the blackened debris for clues. Police did make two arrests that evening, but had not yet charged the adult or the juvenile being detained.

Friends of the two victims, including Tricia Reed, said that they might have been targeted in a case of mistaken identity. They think that a former tenant was probably the real target.

"My friend was an innocent victim," Reed said. "They didn't even have anything to do with it. They didn't even know what was going on.

"This is something that you see on the news. You never think it's going to happen to you."

The fire forced at least one neighboring family to vacate their home. They were received assistance from the American Red Cross.