Fatal Jay Street fire trial begins

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The first pieces of evidence was heard in the trial of former Schenectady Code Enforcement Officer Kenneth Tyree on Thursday.

Tyree reported that the building passed inspection just 14 hours before flames destroyed multiple buildings and fire alarms never went off.

The defense describes this as a witch hunt and Tyree is merely a pawn.

Prosecutors claim Tyree ignored all of the signs of imminent danger that resulted in the deaths of four people and dozens more injured.

“He was surrounded by smoke and fire and was on the verge of losing conscientious. He was five stories above the ground with nowhere to go,” Mike DeMatteo said.

DeMatteo described the stories of survivors from this deadly 2015 fire. It’s how the trial of Kenneth Tyree begins.

Tyree is facing manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges.

In the courtroom, we heard  911 calls from tenants as flames roared through their apartments, telling dispatch the fire alarms never went off.

Prosecutors say Tyree ignored several safety violations during his inspection of 104 Jay Street, just the day before.

“The defendant was under a duty to remedy the situation. To make sure the alarm system was functioning,” DeMatteo said. “To issue an order to vacate or order a fire watch for 24 hours a day until the alarm was in working order. But instead, he did nothing.”

The defense paints a much different picture that Tyree is, in fact, the scapegoat in this case and was in over his head.

“It was the first time he’d ever been sent to a multi-unit building like that, untrained and not certified,” Mark Gaylord, Tyree’s attorney, said.

Gaylord claims code enforcement officials have no business inspecting fire alarm systems and argues his client did, in fact, tell someone about the issues he saw.

“He could do an inspection but because he wasn’t certified, in order for them to write a ticket to somebody, like a violation to appear in court, he would have to have a supervisor signature.”

The defense says the proof will show that he did tell somebody.

“There was nothing preventing him from telling someone what he saw, which he did.”

The defense says the person Tyree told was his boss, who is expected to testify in this trial.

Tyree says he does plan to take the stand and tell his side of the story.

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