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Oddfellow victims identified

EAST LIVERPOOL — The air conditioning is now fixed at a downtown senior housing complex where two men were found dead last week.

Fire crews were dispatched shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday to 120 W. 6th St., when a home health aide discovered the body of Bill Alexander in his unit at the Oddfellow Temple Apartments.

According to the police report, the manager of the building, which is owned by R.L.J. Management of Columbus, told police that she had brought the 77-year-old man a fan almost 20 hours before.

Fire crews were sent to the scene upon the man’s body being discovered and used a thermal heat sensor to read temperatures, which reached 99 degrees Fahrenheit on a building wall.

After the discovery of Alexander, the manager was checking on residents and entered 61-year-old Terry Rall’s apartment door and entered it to find him lying deceased on the floor, a second report reads.

Residents had reported excessive temperatures in the building , which had no air conditioning due to an unrepaired unit.

Witnesses allege residents of the low income senior housing complex had been going to East Liverpool City Hospital for days due to heat-related ailments in the days before. Residents were unable to open the windows in the building, which allegedly were unoperable due to its age. The Oddfellow building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Firefighters quickly determined the building was unliveable and directed residents to make other arrangements until the air conditioning was repaired.

Some went to stay with relatives, but a large number was taken to stay at a local hotel thanks to local good samaritans, where more than a dozen stayed for days until the air conditioning was fixed.

Residents returned to the building around noon Saturday, before a scheduled rally was to take place on the city hall front steps next door.

The community expressed outrage; however, members did pull together to assist in the tragic situation.

For example, Tri-State Cab driver Don Vos took it upon himself to transport residents from the facility to Holiday Inn Express in Newell at no charge, after learning of the situation across the street when dispatchers received a flurry of calls for service after firefighters ordered the building be evacuated.

Lisa Smith, who pastors Grace City Church with her husband Jeff, has had a Thursday ritual since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the day Thursday, she and her volunteers delivered their Doordrop lunches to senior shut-ins in the community and Oddfellows was one of their stops.

Both men were seen or spoken to the day before, Smith explained. It was once the temperature within the building was realized that everyone was checked on.

Rall had been a member of the Smiths’ congregation.

“We honestly are heartbroken. The Oddfellows building always has been our main focus of outreach for Grace City Church,” Smith explained. “These are our friends – not just people we minister to. And when these people are hurting, we do whatever we can to come along side of them and we will.”

Grace City Church, along with the Way Station, Destiny House and East Liverpool United Methodist Church, provided meals for the tenants daily, as they waited in their Newell hotel rooms.

According to a spokeswoman for the Columbiana County coroner’s office, both men have been sent to Cuyahoga County for autopsies. She said they expect results back in three to six months.

Services for Alexander, 77, are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Arner Funeral Chapel in Chester, following calling hours Wednesday from 3 to 5 and 6 to 8 p.m;.

No information is known about the status of Rall’s arrangements.

Fire Chief Bill Jones said that his department isn’t currently investigating fire code violations, but he did forward inquiries to East Liverpool police Captain Darin Morgan, who is handling it from the law enforcement side.

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