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One woman dies in Overland Park apartment fire

Posted: 4:11 PM, Dec 11, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-12 21:02:36Z

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – One woman is dead after an apartment fire at Overland Towers, a complex at 86th and Farley.

Crews from Overland Park, Lenexa, and the Johnson County Med-ACT responded to the fire which started around 2:30 p.m. Monday.

According to the Overland Park Fire Department, when firefighters got to the scene, they found the fire in a second-story apartment.

They worked to knock the fire down and evacuate the building, which houses mostly senior citizens and lower-income residents.

The crews working to put the fire out found the deceased woman in the apartment. The woman was identified as Bettina Yonally, 54.

The fire was out around 3 p.m. Monday, according to a tweet from the Overland Park Fire Department.

Fire officials said the exact cause of the fire and fatality are under investigation, and they are working to notify the victim's family.

Two other people suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation.

Fire crews worked to clear smoke from rooms and helped people who live on the first floor back into the building. Those who live on the second floor were not being allowed back in as of 4:30 p.m.

OPFD said the apartment manager is working to place those residents for the time being.

Claudette Brown, who told 41 Action News she has lived at the complex for seven years, was one of the residents who evacuated during the fire.

"Panic mode kicks in and you don't think straight," she explained. "There were a lot of scared people. They didn't know what to expect or what was happening."

Brown made it out safely but said she and many others were concerned about fellow neighbors inside.

"We had some folks asking, 'Are they going to get out okay? Have you seen so and so?'" she said. 

Brown added that the people living at the complex have formed a close community.

"We have dinners once a month," she explained. "Yesterday was our birthday party for the December birthday celebrants."

News of the fire saddened other residents, including Rose Mary Blackwood.

"I came home from the store and it's nothing but fire trucks and ambulances," she explained. "To be so close to it is scary."

Blackwood said having the fire take place during the holiday season added to the heartbreak.

"That's the thing that's so sad," she explained. "Good grief. People are trying to make it for Christmas." 

By Monday evening, Claudette Brown said the fatal fire was still tough to believe.

"It's going to take a few minutes or hours for it to sink in until I find out who (the victim) was," she explained. "I'll be back tomorrow when things calm down here and the smoke smell is gone."

If you need information about a loved one after the Overland Towers fire, you can call 913-341-3113.

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Note: Overland Park Fire initially reported the victim of the fire was a man, but later issued a correction, stating the victim was a woman.