By Art Aisner, Special Writer
The bodies of an elderly Ann Arbor couple and their middle-aged son were pulled from the charred remains of a home they shared on the city's southwest side Sunday, officials said.
For several hours firefighters, who found the home at 1701 Waverly Road fully engulfed in flames at about 3 a.m., hoped the residents might not have been home.
But as day broke and no word from the residents or relatives came, the inevitable sank in.
"It's one of those situations where you know no one inside could have survived and you just hope for the best. It's a really sad situation," Ann Arbor Acting Fire Battalion Chief Dan Krueger said as investigators sifted through the remains with shovels and other hand tools Sunday afternoon.
Neither police nor fire officials would confirm the name of the victims until the closest next of kin was notified, which appeared to be a nephew in Massachusetts.
Neighbors said the home belonged to Demetri and Joanna Alexandropoulos for several decades. The Greek immigrants retired from the restaurant business several years ago.
Their son, John, believed to be in his 40s, also lived there and had a knack for repairing things, ranging from computers to auto components such as engine blocks. Krueger said they found such equipment on the scene, but could not say if it played any role in starting the fire.
The exact cause was undetermined Sunday and could remain that way due to the severity of the damage, Krueger said. He said there was no reason to believe it was suspicious.
"Basically, the fire was so severe that the house collapsed upon itself," Krueger said.
The first personnel to arrive on the scene said the blaze seemed to be centrally located in the ranch-style house, which was built right on the corner of Waverly and Weldon streets in the 1950s.
But it had already consumed too much of the house for any rescue attempts by firefighters.
Police said that several neighbors called 9-1-1 to report the fire and that witnesses told them they screamed and broke windows to see if anyone was inside.
"I didn't know them, but it's just such an awful tragedy," said one neighbor, who didn't want to be identified as she watched the large earthmover's claw dumping scoopfuls of wet and charred debris from the crater where the house once stood. "This is an unbelievable sight."
Firefighters were on another call when the first reports of the house fire came in. It took roughly 10 minutes for them to get to the scene.
Krueger said the residents were last seen Saturday evening during the typical Halloween trick-or-treating times.
It was unclear if the home had working smoke detectors or whether the residents had mobility issues.
Cadaver dogs with the Michigan State Police located two bodies, believed to be the parents, in the area where first-floor bedrooms would have been at about 12:30 p.m., officials said. The third body was found at about 4 p.m. near a few mattresses in the basement, which served as his bedroom.
Investigators with both Ann Arbor police and fire departments, along with the Michigan State Police, painstakingly searched for clues as to what sparked the early-morning blaze.
Ann Arbor Detective Sgt. Pat Hughes said detectives were on scene to assist the fire department, as they would with any potentially fatal fire, and that their presence does not indicate a belief the fire was suspicious.
Autopsies were scheduled for Monday.