Central Valley

Firefighters use crane to remove 800-pound corpse from Fresno hotel

FRESNO - Fresno firefighters had to remove a wall and use an improvised pulley system to remove a man believed to weigh more than 800 pounds who was found dead in a downtown residential hotel Tuesday night.

The 51-year-old man was not identified.

Fire Department spokesman Ken Shockley said that the removal effort, at the Asia Hotel near the intersection of Kern and G streets in Chinatown, was unlike anything anyone in the department has ever seen.

"It was a major challenge, and our firefighters were trying at the same time to protect his identity and the dignity of his remains," Shockley said.

The death was reported at 7:50 p.m.

Police officers and firefighters from Station 3 responded, then they called for assistance from the Fire Department's urban search and rescue unit when it became clear that they couldn't remove the body in the normal way.

More than a dozen firefighters removed a wall between the man's second floor apartment and the stairwell, Shockley said, then built a pulley system to slowly lower the body downstairs.

Once the body, which was wrapped in a large tarp, was on the ground floor, firefighters used the pulleys, rope and a gurney rated for 1,500 pounds to load the man into a coroner's van.

Shockley said neighbors told firefighters that no one had seen the man walking around the hotel, which has shared restroom facilities, for more than a month.

"They said when he did walk, he used two canes and had difficulty making it through the hallways," Shockley said.

"The residents here were helping him with basic needs before his death."

A resident of the hotel, who would only identify himself as Rod, said no one had seen the dead man in several days.

"He had gained a lot of weight, several hundred pounds at least, just in the last year. I think he probably died several days ago," Rod said.