Tuesday night, a Bellevue man lost his life in a fire and early Thursday morning, a body was found inside a vacant apartment building in downtown Omaha that had caught fire.
It didn't take long for firefighters to get a small fire under control at 18th and Dodge just after 1 a.m. But inside the elevator where investigators believe the fire started, they found a body that has yet to be identified. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
We do know who the victim was of Tuesday night's Bellevue blaze. His name was John Stewart and his friends and co-workers are still trying to deal with the fact that he's not coming back to work. His chair sits empty where Stewart usually spent his workday at Offutt Collision Repair in Bellevue.
“When we come in in the morning we look for John in his chair, that's where he's been for the last five years,” says repair shop owner George Rybar.
“It's kind of unreal to go from one day when you're kind of laughing and punching each other and joking about work and the next day they're not there,” says co-worker Becca Gilbert.
Those who worked with him said he was good at his job as an estimator and had knack for remembering details. He was also well liked in the community. “Everybody just loved him, they knew they could find him down at Pharoah's and have a drink with him and just enjoy his company,” says Gilbert. “He loved to talk, he loved to listen to other people's stories and share stories.”
Stewart's story came to an end Tuesday night at his apartment in the Olde Towne neighborhood. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the fire. Now his co-workers are trying to figure out how to get along without him.
“When you have a small family we're all close,” says Gilbert. “We all know each other's stories and we all suffer together. We all cheer together, we all win together and of course we are mourning together.”
Stewart's funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Bellevue.