Howard woman dies in hotel fire

Margy P. Klein, 46, of Ellicott City was the sole fatality in blaze near Vancouver, B.C.

Baltimore & Region

September 26, 2005|By David Kohn | David Kohn,Sun reporter

A 46-year-old Ellicott City woman died in a Vancouver hospital Friday - the lone fatality from a blaze that erupted in a hotel where she and a friend were staying during an unexpected travel layover while returning from China.

The friend, an Owings Mills woman, remained hospitalized yesterday.

Authorities in British Columbia had not named the women. But her brother, who lives in New York, named the dead woman as his sister, Margy P. Klein, a longtime resident of Howard County.

Her injured traveling companion was a co-worker at a travel agency, named by a close friend as 63-year-old Jean Gibbs.

The women were not supposed to have stayed the night, said the brother, Bradley Klein, but they either missed their connection or their plane was delayed.

They ended up at a Best Western Hotel in Richmond, B.C., outside Vancouver.

The fire erupted about 11 p.m. Thursday. About 350 people escaped without major injuries from the two-story building. Many guests retreated to their balconies, where they climbed to safety or were rescued.

But Klein and Gibbs did not get out of the building. According to news reports, firefighters said the women had tried to escape through hallways and were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide.

Gibbs was taken to Vancouver General Hospital, which reported yesterday that she had been transferred to Richmond General Hospital. Her condition could not be ascertained from authorities yesterday, but her friend in Maryland said she had been severely injured.

The women both worked at Travel Destinations Management Group in Owings Mills.

Klein loved to travel, according to her brother. On Thursday, before the fire, she had called her father in Cincinnati, telling him she had greatly enjoyed her trip to China.

Bradley Klein said that a funeral for his sister was being planned for this week in Cincinnati, where she grew up.

Margy Klein had lived in the Baltimore area for many years, first in Columbia and then in Ellicott City, her brother said.

She was an avid walker, and particularly enjoying hiking on her travels. She had spent part of her trip walking on the Great Wall of China, he said.

People who knew both women described them last night as friendly and devoted to walking.

"She was very much into it," said Jerry Baugher, president of Piedmont Pacers, a Carroll County walking club of which Gibbs is a member. "She was a little dynamo."

Baugher said Gibbs, a past president of the club, sometimes covers two 10-kilometer walks in a single day. She looks more than a decade younger than her age, he said.

Klein was a member of Columbia Volksmarch, another walking group. Fellow member Tony Willoughby described her as "an adventurous person."

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