Breaking News
More () »

'The building caught fire so fast': Friend of worker who reportedly died in SouthPark construction fire

Crews arrived on the scene and saw the aggressive flames destroying the wooden structure, causing beams to collapse.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At least one person was injured in a massive Charlotte fire that engulfed a large building that was set to become luxury apartments. Meanwhile, two other workers were still unaccounted for.

Crews arrived on the scene and saw the aggressive flames destroying the building's wood structure which caused beams to collapse.

Fire officials said over 90 firefighters on the scene rescued 15 workers at the construction site, including one person that was trapped on a crane. That person was rescued by Charlotte firefighters and was transported by Medic with non-life-threatening injuries.

Medic said two other people were evaluated on the scene but refused transport.

WCNC Charlotte was told by family members that at least one of the workers still unaccounted for had died. Loved ones said Demonte Sherrill has not been recovered from the scene of the fire.

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.

A person who said they were friends with Sherrill said that throughout the week, Sherrill was wearing all of the proper safety equipment, including a harness. But on Thursday, they said he wasn't wearing one. Sherrill had just been hired on by the company this week. 

"This morning, they took his harness away but still sent him up to the sixth floor to do the windows," the friend said. "The supervisor said that a truck exploded. It was a truck full of chemicals that exploded and caught the building on fire, which is why the building caught fire so fast."

Keith Suggs, the manager of both Sherrill and Rueben Holmes, the other missing worker, refuted the friend's claim that Sherrill didn't have a harness at the job site Thursday. Suggs, who said he works for Prestige Windows and Doors, said when he left the site around 8 a.m. Thursday, both workers were wearing harnesses. 

Suggs told WCNC Charlotte that when he left the site, only Holmes and Sherrill were present from his crew. A fourth employee was out of work due to surgery. He said they were there to install doors. Sherrill had just started with Suggs on Tuesday. Holmes has worked with Suggs for more than two years.

Editor's note: There is a live video of Sherrill pleading for help during the fire. WCNC Charlotte has reviewed this live video. We are not sharing it here at this time out of respect for Sherrill and his loved ones. As of publication, Charlotte Fire has said crews could not confirm any deaths just yet.

The search for Rueben Holmes

The employer of Rueben Holmes is asking the public for any help locating him or contacting his family. 

Holmes was part of a crew working at the South Park apartment construction site. Keith Suggs shared a photo with WCNC Charlotte's Richard Devayne showing Holmes with his sister. 

Suggs is asking anyone who knows Holmes' sister, who lives in South Carolina, or his nephew in Charlotte, to contact him. They can reach Suggs at 404-569-4226. 

The cloud of smoke from the fire was so thick it was registering on the weather radar. WCNC Charlotte Forecaster Larry Sprinkle said, due to the smoke, the air quality skyrocketed to the "very unhealthy" level. Sprinkle strongly encouraged everyone to stay inside because the dense smoke is in the air, and experts aren't aware yet what is in the smoke chemical-wise. 

For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

Continuing coverage of 5-alarm Charlotte fire


Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
SUBSCRIBEApple Podcasts || Spotify || Stitcher || Google Podcasts 

Locked On is the leading podcast network for local sports and is owned by WCNC Charlotte's parent company TEGNA.
Listen to Locked On here.  

Wake Up Charlotte To Go is a daily news and weather podcast you can listen to so you can start your day with the team at Wake Up Charlotte.  
SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Stitcher || TuneIn || Google Podcasts   

All of WCNC Charlotte's podcasts are free and available for both streaming and download. You can listen now on Android, iPhone, Amazon, and other internet-connected devices. Join us from North Carolina, South Carolina, or on the go anywhere. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out