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BREAKING NEWS — Firefighters Battle Ballston Garage Blaze

by ARLnow.com June 29, 2011 at 8:44 am 9,859 39 Comments

(Update at 2:35 p.m.) An elderly woman is dead following a car fire in the parking garage below the Ballston Hilton (950 N. Stafford Street).

Homicide detectives were called to investigate the woman’s death, but according to police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal the death is now being investigated as a probable accident.

Police believe the woman, 74-year-old Adele Lapinell of Annandale, suffered some sort of medical emergency that caused her to crash her vehicle on the G-1 level of the garage. The crash caused the fire, Nosal said — likely the result of a gas line that was damaged by the collision. The first and second floors of the hotel were evacuated during the fire as a precaution.

Lapinell’s body was found as firefighters extinguished the blaze. Nosal said she was identified as a “registered parker” in the garage. She was the only person in the vehicle at the time of the collision.

Police shut down Stafford Street between Fairfax Drive and 9th Street N. while emergency responders were on the scene. The road has since reopened. Washington Gas crews are on the scene to help repair the gas line.

  • ArlForester

    How the heck does someone die from a car fire in a parking garage unless it is some sort of suicide?

    • Stu Pendus
      • Tabby

        Stu, her death is exactly what I thought of too. What a bizarre tragedy.

    • Jerome Smiff

      June 29th, 2011 9:03 am
      How the heck does someone die from a car fire in a parking garage unless it is some sort of suicide?

      Car fires produce a TON of toxic smoke. In an enclosed area, such as a parking garage, it can quickly overcome someone and they may die.

      • doodly


        Or it could be from the impact of an accident that then caused a fire. Or a carbon monoxide leak.

      • ArlForester

        Yeah, um, no.

        • doodly

          Yeah, nobody ever kills someone and then burns their body in a car.

  • JamesE

    That explains the firetrucks I saw on Stuart St as I left my garage, good thing I live on the other side of Fairfax.

    • BerryBerryCold

      The northside of Fairfax is where to be.

    • CarsSuck

      like it can’t happen over there? “someones life ended, but at least I was abe to get in my car and drive to Whole Foods”, please, get over yourself.

      • JamesE

        internet tough guy right here

  • jan

    What is it with car fires this morning? Earlier, a car fire closed down the Baltimore Washington Parkway, and then I-66 east was shut down due to a car fire.

    • BerryBerryCold

      BW Parkway always has something. Its a scenic parkway between the two cities yet used by some (thugs from MD typically) as a killing zone (by that I mean their dangerous driving.)

  • Aaron

    Just left the scene .. Arlington FD is in process of wrapping up and a ton of police are showing up, which raises suspicions. Among those spotted was a black SUV that looks like FBI and at least two Federal Protective Service Police … saw a few DHS coats as well. … Hmm???

    Also a nice smell of crispness in the air. Nice job ACFD containing the fire and godspeed to the police on their investigation

    • Stu Pendus

      Definitely are some “Ops” type contractors in the office structure that is common to the hotel building. Someone mentioned there’s a floor with about 15 SCIF’s, for instance.

  • Patrick

    Wow!! A mafia style hit in Arlington.

  • Derek

    That building has the US Exec Office Immigration Review and I believe some space for DHS. All of those DHS and FPS cars are a normal sighting around there.

    • Aaron

      Thanks, the FPS came up in a hurry with lights blaring .. stopped in middle of street, but could be precautionary (hope so)

    • BerryBerryCold

      Everyone knows that Immigration “review” is code for “rubber stamping.”

      • doodly

        Far from it.

      • SouthArlJD

        In that brief statement you proved your complete ignorance of the process.

  • Josh

    Scary stuff. I used to park there.

    • Seym

      Scary stuff, I live in the condo there!

  • Josh S

    As I drove through the area this morning and wondered about all the commotion, I knew that when I got to work, I’d immediately check it out on ARLNow.

    Bravo and good work for reporting it so quickly.

  • Courthouse

    A similar accident happened very recently at a retirement home in Arlington. Elderly woman + car accident + parking garage. Sad trend.

    • Para Salin

      Republican plan to cut down on Medicare expenses, I suppose.

      • PHD


      • SouthArlJD


  • charlie

    most garages in arlington are impossible to navigate. that garage is additionally bad. and there seem to be pipes and wires hanging everywhere. i’m so sorry to hear about this.
    maybe since the chair of the planning commission lives there she can focus on garage safety instead of just ADA safety in her building.

    • CarsSuck

      yea Charlie, garage safety. Slow down and hang up your phone

      • charlie

        anyone that knows anything knows that cell phones don’t work in garages. duh. no, double duh.
        Garages are poorly designed in the DC-area. PERIOD.

  • Evil Matcher

    That garage sucks and is the tightest squeeze in Arlington!

  • someonethere

    I cannot believe some of the comments on this page and how ignorant people can be towards others’ loss and pain. Rest in peace. We all love you, Adele.

  • Jorge

    She was my wifes’ aunt. She was a sweet and caring person. Always a very positive person and a pleasure to be around. The sudeness of her passing is a shock. I always looked forward to her visits. We will always love you and remember you fondly. Although we know we will see you again one day, today we are heartbroken. God bless you Tia.

    • Paul

      That woman is my grandmother.

      It’s sad that I find out about how she died alongside comments about suicide, mafia hits and complaints about the traffic.

      She was a true Saint, caring, patient and kind. In my 24 years of life, never once did I hear her say things like, “I want/need…” probably the most unselfish person I’ve ever met.

      Thank you to all of you that left comments in her defense.

      We love you, Abuela.

      • D

        I am sorry for your loss Paul. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • John Andre

    My hunch: It was a heart attack, stroke or seizure which occurred while she was driving. She might have passed away due to the medical event before or during the accident.

  • CW

    My most sincere condolences to the friends and relatives of the deceased.

    As a side note, I typed up an entire post asking how in the world a parking lot could have an exposed gas line in a location where a vehicle could strike it. Then I realized that I believe what you are referring to is a “fuel line” inside the car, not the building’s gas line.

    Again, my deepest condolences.

    • CW

      Actually, no, I’m not crazy, the last sentence does really say that – washington gas crews. How in the WORLD is it within building codes to have an exposed gas line where a vehicle could accidentally strike it?


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