Family of woman who died in Boyle Heights apartment fire say blocked access caused her death

On August 12, 2022, a fire fully engulfed a Boyle Heights apartment in flames.

The fire burned through the roof and poured out of the window and back door.

Firefighters were on site, but they were too far and too late to rescue the woman inside, 68-year-old Victoria Velasquez, a mother and grandmother.

"It was just a lot of time lost," said her eldest daughter Sonia.

Firefighters couldn't get to the flames fast enough because the closest access was and still is gated, locked, and blocked. 

"This is nonsense, we need this gate open."

That's the voice of a resident of the complex and a sentiment shared by the victim's family.

"This happened to my mom, who knows if something [like this] could happen to someone else," said Brenda Marquez, another daughter of Victoria's. "I want justice."

Who's responsible?

The City of Los Angeles owns the apartment complex while the city's Housing Authority manages it.

The family's attorney, Patrick Nolan, tried multiple time to get the city to answer the family's complaints.

Sonia and Brenda cherish moments with their mom.

Photos showed her dressed for Halloween, birthdays, and with grandson Damian.

She was remembered in a Catholic mass and buried in a small white casket.

Her daughters released two doves. 

It was a beautiful send-off that is in stark contrast to the details in the coroner's report.

"The bathtub was being filled with water and she was hiding in the bathroom," said the family's lawyer. "Not to get too graphic, but it says her mouth was filled with soot, which tells us she was inhaling even in her last moments, taking in the smoke and fumes, waiting for a rescue she didn't even realize had been blocked."

FOX 11 reached out to an attorney representing the interests of the city as well as the housing authority but has not yet heard back.