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Wendover apartment blaze kills man

Cause unknown; more than a dozen families displaced

SHARE Wendover apartment blaze kills man

WENDOVER — All Frank Port owns is two pairs of socks he bought Friday at a local store.

The rest of his possessions were ruined in a deadly blaze Friday at the Bonneville Gardens Apartments. The 60-year-old blackjack dealer at the Nugget Casino looked lost Friday as he struggled to plan his next move.

"You just do it, you get your paycheck and go buy something this week, then something the next," Port said. "You just carry on. Keep on keeping on, putting one foot in front of the other."

More than a dozen families lost their homes Friday. One man died in the blaze: Deepak Sharma, a 36-year-old immigrant from India. He was said to be in the bedroom of his apartment where the fire started just before 9 a.m.

Hillary Walker called the police at 8:43 a.m. after she heard Sharma's wife outside screaming, "He's on fire, he's on fire."

The 18-year-old Walker then woke her boyfriend, grabbed her birth certificate and other essential records and bolted out the door.

She is pregnant and her baby boy, Aiden, is due June 1. She had a crib set up and all the essentials for the baby's arrival.

"Now it's all gone," Walker said. "It's ruined everything. I'm trying not to stress for the baby, but it's hard not to."

Port said he was just glad someone woke him before the fire spread to his apartment. He was sleeping when someone banged on his door.

"I rolled over and put my pillow over my head," Port said. "Luckily, they kept banging so I finally got up."

Wendover Police Chief Vaughn Tripp said officers are still investigating the fire's cause. "We don't know what happened," he said. The fire burned 16 units of the apartment complex.

Displaced families gathered at the local community center where Red Cross volunteers provide food, clothing and other assistance. Greater Salt Lake Area Red Cross worked with volunteers from the Elko, Nev., unit to provide assistance.

The displaced residents were offered a night's stay at a few of the area casinos. Victims also were offered a small amount of money for groceries and food, toiletries, medication, baby items, shoes and coats.

"They're not set, but they can get back on their feet quickly because of all this assistance," said Wendover Mayor Brett Shelton.

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com