Body found in charred car debris by tow service, missed by firefighters, chief says

Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski apologized Tuesday, saying the body of a dead woman was missed by firefighters at the scene of an accident Sunday morning and was eventually found by the attendant at the tow yard where the car was taken.

Sunday around 5:30 a.m., a car rolled off a parking lot into an electrical box outside a vacant Milwaukee building, according to WTMJ TV in Milwaukee.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire caused by the crash that consumed the car, and had the car towed to an urban area.

About three hours later, an attendant on the property reported seeing a body in the back seat of the car, which was later identified as 21-year-old Jenna Reichartz by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, WTMJ reported.

Milwaukee Police told WTMJ that surveillance video from a nearby gas station showed Reichartz’s car slowing through an intersection, jumping a curb and coming to a stop in the parking lot. The car reportedly stayed in place for “a long time” before rolling forward into the electrical box that started the fire.

Lipski said Tuesday it is important that the right people are held accountable for the missing body, and he did not want the police to be blamed for not being on the scene when the body should have been discovered by firefighters.

“I want it to sound very clear. A search for a recently extinguished vehicle is our responsibility and we have not lived up to that standard in this situation,” Lipski said.

The coroner’s office has not yet revealed a cause of death for Reichartz, or publicly stated whether she may have been dead or incapacitated before rolling into the electrical box.

The Milwaukee Fire Chief said firefighters have not seen a corpse in the back seat of a car after putting out a fire caused by the car crashing into an electrical box early Sunday morning. Above, flames burst from a burning car after a bomb explosion in a parking lot in Peshawar, Pakistan, on September 8, 2007.
STRDEL/AFP via Getty Images

“We know the family is grieving and we recognize that recognizing and granting human dignity goes beyond life,” Lipski said. “We have a lot of experience and pride in dealing with deceased persons with great dignity,” the chief said. “Our failure to locate this person and properly manage their remains has robbed them of this most basic dignity and I am sorry for that.”

A report says it was possible Reichartz’s body was pushed into the back seat by the water pressure from the fire hoses. Law enforcement According to the surveillance video, they were unable to determine if anyone left the vehicle and fled the scene of the accident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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