W ailing and weeping filled a northeast apartment where members of Calgary’s Eritrean community gathered Saturday to comfort the wife of a man who died in a garage fire this weekend.
In a room full of women chanting a sorrowful homage to her husband, a tearful Senayit Andebrhan leaned against a wall, burying her face in her shawl.
Her husband, Emanuel Mekonen Kifle, 36, was one of two men who died Friday in a garage fire at their Marlborough home. Investigators haven’t determined a cause, but the blaze isn’t believed to be suspicious.
The outpouring of grief Saturday was a demonstration of support for Andebrhan, 33, who has no other family in Calgary.
“He was everything to me,” said Andebrhan, sobbing. “He was very kind.”
Andebrhan was at work at her downtown office cleaning job when she heard the sad news from police Friday night.
The couple had moved to Calgary from Eritrea as refugees less than two years ago to build a better life. They had planned to start a family in Calgary.
“He was looking forward to growing better and working hard,” said his cousin, Azmera Mamo.
Kifle was a mechanic, who often volunteered to fix friends’ cars. He was studying to write his journey-man’s test next month so he could find better work in Calgary.
The tall, cheerful man had a magnetic personality, said Mamo.
“He was very kind, very giving,” he said. “So many people know him.”
He had family members in Africa and Europe, as well as a brother in Vancouver, who is en route to Calgary after learning the news.
“I’m in shock. When you look at him, he’s very tall, a healthy man, you never think death will get him,” said Mamo.
“I’m still thinking it’s a dream.” Mamo said the other man who died
in the garage was a Sudanese man, and Kifle’s best friend.
Emergency crews were called to the home on Marpole Road N.E. about 7:30 p.m. Friday where they found the detached garage engulfed in flames.
When fire crews extinguished the blaze, they found two bodies inside.
Fire officials said there was a vehicle on jacks inside the garage, but couldn’t say if the victims were working on it.
Neighbour Mike Davis said he was watching TV when he heard a loud noise.
“I heard a whoosh, like when you start your barbecue and it doesn’t catch. All of a sudden, it was all orange light coming in the window.”
“I looked out and the garage was on fire, and I just called 911.”
His wife and kids were just walking in the front door when the blaze broke out, Davis said.
“They said,’There’s a fire and some-one’s screaming, Help, help.’ “
Mamo said community members are still breaking the news to Kifle’s loved ones in Calgary and abroad. A collection has been started to help his wife.
“In our community, we’re all family,” Mamo said.
jkomarnicki@ theherald. canwest.com