Fire victim had no way of leaving apartment, friends say

Friends of a disabled man who died in a Toronto apartment fire last week are alleging that his caregivers had restricted his ability to leave the unit, prior to his death.

Shawn Gallaher was a resident of an apartment building located on Carlton Street, where a fire broke out last Tuesday evening.

The fire that killed Gallaher was contained to his ninth floor suite inside the facility that is known as Tobias House.

Tobias House is a building that is designed for people with disabilities to live independently.

Gallaher was a quadriplegic who used a wheelchair.

Some of his surviving friends are alleging that Gallaher’s caregivers had limited his independence.

"They were treating him like a child. It was as if he was a captive here," said Joe Ross, who lives in the apartment next to Gallaher’s former unit.

More specifically, Ross and other friends allege that Gallaher’s caregivers routinely left him locked inside the unit.

Residents of Tobias House are supposed to have automatic door openers, or a key to lock and unlock their doors.

But Gallaher had neither.

While he had requested that his deadbolt be left open, he had no way to open the door.

His only option was to call an attendant when he wanted to come and go.

It is not clear why Gallaher was allowed to be locked in, though friends admit he had a drug problem and had been letting dealers into the building.

"He was making steps, it wasn’t like people couldn’t see that he was improving," said Pentelope Millen, a personal support worker.

The director of Tobias House declined an on-air interview with CBC News, though she indicated that it was up to building management to provide Gallaher with a door opener.

Building management says that Gallaher never asked for one.

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