2 men indicted in fatal Jay Street fire in Schenectady

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Schenectady County District Attorney has indicted two people in connection to a fire that killed four people.

Schenectady Code Enforcement Officer Ken Tyree and building manager Jason Sacks are charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

NEWS10 ABC’s Lindsay Nielsen spoke with the family of one of the victims on the phone and a survivor. They say the arrests are good but it won’t bring back their loved ones.

“All he had to do was his job. He was getting a paycheck. Do your job and now people are dead so he’s got to carry that,” Anthony Cortese, a survivor of the fire, said.

Cortese claimed from the day I first met him, minutes after he escaped the fatal blaze, that fire alarms were not working in the building and people became trapped inside.

“Harry Simpson, I can still hear him screaming.”

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney confirmed that not one single fire alarm was working at 104 Jay Street.

Sacks is accused of tampering with the fire alarm system, failing to maintain it, and canceling a fire monitoring system months before the fire in January 2015.

“So not only was the fire panel non-operational. It was in trouble mode on every residential floor,” Carney said.

Carney says 911 calls alerted responders to the fire March 6th 2015 that killed four people, not the fire alarm system.

“I’ll just never forget it you know. People desperately trying to save their lives and you just knew that there was no way to save them,” Cortese said.

In the indictment, Tyree is accused of falsely claiming in inspection documents that the fire alarm system was operational when he inspected the building the day before the fire.

“He should have ordered either an evacuation of that building or the establishment of a fire watch,” Carney said.

“What I hope happens through this is that from here forward building inspectors take their job seriously,” Cortese said. “These laws are on the books for a reason.”

A woman who says she is Tyree’s fiancée stated outside of court, that “it’s in God’s hands.”

“I just drove all the way from Connecticut, getting this news last night. I’m not feeling that great. I feel helpless right now,” Tyree’s fiancée said.

Tyree is also accused of putting false information on his employment application when he applied to be a code enforcement officer.

Council members want answers about the hiring and training process, hoping to see changes in the city code office.

“It’s something that is disturbing to hear, Vince Riggi said. “We’ll see what the mayor has to say about this. This is his department so he should be answering a lot of these questions I think.”

We thought so too, NEWS10 ABC’s Rachel Yonkunas’ calls went unanswered and Mayor Gary McCarthy wasn’t in the office.

“I think there was fair warning that the city knew there were issues in this building so it’s disturbing to me.”

The DA says if Tyree the city code officer had done his job, he would have discovered the alarms weren’t working. He should have evacuated the building.

NEWS10 is still waiting to hear what the mayor has to say.

The DA says the investigation is not over.

Rewatch the press conference:

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