NOVI, Mich. (WJBK) - All of the five people killed in a Novi house fire Sunday were Mexican immigrants living in the basement of the home and investigators believe they were in the country illegally.
On Monday the five men's deaths were ruled accidental from smoke and soot inhalation. While police continue to work to notify other families while neighbors send prayers.
A frightening 911 call and now on Monday caution tape and flowers surround a Novi house - the site of a fatal basement fire on Sunday morning. Novi Police Chief David Molloy says the group of men from Mexico had been living in the basement of the home and worked at Kim's Garden. The homeowner, Roger Tam, was also the manager of the restaurant which was closed Monday.
"We've never had anything this horrific," said Molloy. "Obviously our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these victims wherever they are."
Investigators believe the five men were in the country illegally.
Two of those lost their lives have been identified as 18-year-old Leonel Alvarado along with his friend and coworker Brian Medina-Contreras, just 16 years old.
"(Leonenl) was very fun, a very respectful, hard worker," said his cousin, Diana Osario.
"Always laughing," said Anna Garcia, a friend of Brian's. "Very respectful kid, always fun to talk to."
Friends and family say the two teens moved from Zacatecas, a city in north central Mexico two years ago to start a better life.
"We come to this country we leave everything behind," said Diana Osario, a cousin of Leonel Alvarado.
Malloy says as the group had been living inside that basement, they found evidence they'd cook down there and disable the fire alarm as well.
"It appears the origin of the fire appears to be concentrated on a mattress in the basement," Molloy said. "It is still ruled as undetermined at this time but we also can't rule out careless smoking."
This family simply cannot believe they must say goodbye so soon.
"Leonel and Brian were very young," said Diana. " They had a lot more in life to do, this is very unfortunate."