Tuesday, April 16, 2024

VicPD says Plaza Hotel caretaker may have died in fire, names him as suspect in arson investigation

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Victoria Police say the caretaker of the Plaza Hotel that went up in flames last summer may have perished in the fire, and is also their main suspect in the arson investigation.

The fire, that has been classified as an arson case, fully engulfed the five-story building at 603 Pandora Ave on May 6th and forced firefighters to battle the blaze for several days.

Downtown Victoria was shrouded in a cloud of smoke as the flames raged through the former hotel, prompting the City of Victoria to issue an air quality warning and forcing some businesses to close their doors for several days — one closing permanently.

After the fire was extinguished, the remaining husk of the building was eventually torn down using an excavator due to fears of it collapsing and posing a safety risk.

See also: Victoria Police confirm arson was the cause of downtown Plaza Hotel fire

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Plaza Hotel fire was the disappearance of its caretaker, Michael Draeger — a mystery that remains unsolved one year later.

Draeger was a maintenance worker/handyman at the century-old establishment, and once the bar shut down in 2013, he assumed the role of caretaker.

A trailer that reportedly belonged to him was located behind the building, and a van was parked out front, but there were no signs of anyone being in those vehicles.

In a statement today, Victoria Police says the missing persons file investigating the disappearance of Mike Draeger remains open and active, and no signs of his whereabouts have been detected yet.

Investigators now have reason to believe that it is possible Draeger died in the the fire, but no body or remains were found. Police also confirmed on Thursday that Draeger is not believed to have travelled out of the country, and no activity was detected in his bank account over the past year.

He is also considered the main suspect in their investigation as Det. Cst. Andre Almeida says he was the only person with the means and ability to start the fire, due to his intimate knowledge of the building.

According to Almeida, there were several indicators that the fire was intentionally set as the sprinkler system had been tampered with, and there were two fires blazing when fire crews arrived — one on the 4th floor, and another in the basement.

As of today, VicPD says they have no new leads to pursue and have “exhausted all investigative avenues into the Plaza Hotel fire”.

The file remains classified as an arson and detectives will continue to follow any new leads that present themselves.

Anyone who has information about the Plaza Hotel fire, or any information on the disappearance or whereabouts of Mr. Draeger, is asked to call the VicPD non-emergency line at (250) 995-7654 and press #1 to speak with the report desk.

To report what you know anonymously, call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477

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Brishti Basu
Former Senior Staff Writer and Content Manager at Victoria Buzz.

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