Funeral held for 5 family members killed in Mpls. fireby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — One funeral remains for the victims of a fatal fire earlier this month in Minneapolis at in the apartments above McMahon's Pub on Lake Street.
Ryan Richner's service will be held later this month. He died along with five members of the same family. Their funeral was held yesterday afternoon in Minneapolis.
The funeral for Anne Gervais, her son Andrew and Andrew's three children, two-year-old Colten Gervais, and three-year-old twins Aliciah and Austin Gervais-Hjellming was held at the American Indian Center in Minneapolis. An official from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe says Anne Gervais was a member of the band.
The family kept the media outside the center during the funeral.
As mourners filed out of the ceremony, it was evident that many who came were people like Sharon Boswell. Boswell says she didn't know any of the people who died, but the fire that killed them happened in her neighborhood.
"Today, everyone who was involved in that fire became our family, today. This made us all family. Everybody in there is now family," she said.
Members of the Gervais and the Hjellming families didn't say much to reporters. Hjellming is the last name of the childrens' mother. A woman named Catherine Gervais says she's the ex-wife of the children's great-grandfather.
Williams: "What was your reaction when you heard about the fire?"
"Couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe it. Still don't," Gervais said.
That sentiment was shared by a lot of the people who attended the funeral. Tom Weiland came to pay his respects to the family. He also came to honor the memory of Ryan Richner, who worked at the Irish pub located in the building that burned.
"I have a lot of ties with the bartender at McMahon's [Pub]," Weiland said. "Good person, that's going to be missed a lot."
Richner also lived in an apartment above the bar. On the night of the fire he let his good friend Andrew Gervais and his family stay in his apartment.
In the weeks since the fatal blaze, attention has been focused on the city's fire inspection process. City officials say the upper floor of the building that burned hadn't been inspected in 16 years. Fire officials say the building was due for an inspection this summer.
City council member Cam Gordon attended the funeral service. Gordon says the city has made building inspections a high priority.
"We want to make sure we get all the information," he said. "Wait for the arson investigation to be completed and those other things. And I think we're also doing a job as a community to review what kind of policies we have in place in terms of inspection and fire prevention and I think that's appropriate."
Recently the state fire marshal conducted a review of the inspection records for the building that burned. The marshal recommended that the city increase the frequency of inspections for buildings with a history of violations. It also recommended the city dedicate one department to inspect mixed-use buildings that contain commercial businesses and apartment units.
Both are changes that city officials say are either in the works or already in place.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.