Byblos fire 'wasn’t just an accident,' says owner’s brother

Jim Day
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The owner seriously injured in a fire last year that gutted his Charlottetown restaurant told family he was struck on the head just before his business went up in smoke.

Charbel Jreije had closed his restaurant called Byblos on Oct. 1 but was still inside when the building burst into flames.

Firefighters rescued Jreije, the lone occupant in the building, pulling him from a washroom.

Few details have come from the Charlottetown police since the Charlottetown fire department turned the case over to police in mid-October.

On Monday, Charlottetown Deputy Police Chief Gary McGuigan would say only that police continue to wait for exhibits to be processed at a lab. Police hope the exhibits will help determine the origin and cause of the fire.

“It’s still an active investigation,’’ said McGuigan. “We haven’t ruled anything out.’’

George Jreije, however, was willing to shine far more light on the incident that nearly claimed the life of his brother, Charbel.

He said police asked the Jreijs not to talk publicly about the fire, but George was willing to discuss the fire with The Guardian Monday.

“I think it is going to be treated like a criminal investigation,’’ he said. “It wasn’t just an accident that’s all I can say. It was more than this.’’

George says his brother told family members that he was hit on the head as he was closing up his restaurant for the night. George said his brother then recounted waking up in the bathroom in a daze.

“He was coughing and inhaling (smoke) and opened the door not knowing what was happening,’’ said George.

He is quick to slam any suggestion that Charbel may have set the restaurant ablaze.

“We know people talk,’’ he noted.

George says his brother was passionate about the restaurant that he opened in December 2011 located in Dow’s Plaza on Belvedere Avenue across from the Superstore.

Charbel wanted to develop a brand with Byblos, he adds, creating a franchise specializing in authentic Lebanese cuisine.

George says his brother helped build a number of restaurants in the Gulf as a franchise consultant.

Charbel hopes to rebuild Byblos in Charlottetown but doctors have urged him to relax and focus on his health, says George.

“This is the biggest question mark: Who? Why? He has a ton of friends. He never had enemies all his life.’’ George Jreij

Charbel continues to battle a serious lung infection that leaves him winded and weak. He is taking strong medication to treat the infection.

“He has been struggling with this,’’ said George. “He is able to walk and talk but not a lot.’’

George says his brother is angry over the fire that has caused so much pain and hardship.

“He is mad (over) what happened and why,’’ he said. “This is the biggest question mark. Who? Why? He has a ton of friends. He never had enemies all his life.’’

George says his 34-year-old brother has so much to live for, including his beautiful wife Rita who is expecting the couple’s third child and the couple’s two young children age three and 20 months.

George says the fire has been a frightening ordeal that shook many.

“We come from a very tight family,’’ he said.

“We felt like we lost him for a bit. He was almost dead...we didn’t know if we were going to see him again.’’

Organizations: Charlottetown Police Services, Charlottetown Fire Department

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Belvedere Avenue

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Recent comments

  • Time will tell
    January 30, 2013 - 10:34

    Be Fuddles:..what if he got the "whack"on the head from a self ignited explosion....or a falling piece of debris.........there are many other senarios.......

  • Fairy tales
    January 29, 2013 - 19:32

    The owner seriously injured in a fire last year that gutted his Charlottetown restaurant told family he was struck on the head just before his business went up in smoke.And they believe him?What about his neighbouring business's who were forced to move ..do they beleive him?

  • Right to our opinion
    January 29, 2013 - 12:03

    Your brother can thank you for opening up a can of worms??Do you really believe that story?

  • Bill
    January 29, 2013 - 10:53

    The question is, whose business is it anyhow. Everybody is saying how unbelievable this is, can we not forget that the man almost died here? You people must be hinting that he attempted suicide as well then, I cannot believe some people, honestly.

  • reed
    January 29, 2013 - 10:40

    If this was arson committed by a third party (which the brother thinks it is), how did the owner become absolved so quickly? Something is not adding up, looking forward to seeing the "fire lab results??"

  • townie
    January 29, 2013 - 08:33

    should be easy to confirm, i'm sure the concussion, lump/blood on the head, etc. would have been noticed in the ER exam.

  • Not full of assumptions
    January 29, 2013 - 08:25

    Funny how you say the owner is making this story up. So where did you get your facts from? You must know the whole story then. You must be full of the truth to straight up say this man is lying. You people are pathetic. You live by making others look bad. Why don't you take your negativitiy and shove it where it belongs.

    • therod
      January 29, 2013 - 09:41

      The brother of the owner is doing a perfectly good job at making him look bad.

  • therod
    January 29, 2013 - 07:06

    Let me get this straight...he owns a horribly failing restaurant that is over improved for a location that has a history of failure. Someone happens to come in when the restaurant is closed/locked up bops him on the head and sets the restaurant on fire for no reason? Cool story bro

    • be fuddled
      January 29, 2013 - 15:22

      If you had a lick of sense you'd be more interested in what the hospital results have to say. If someone whacked him on the head, would that not be a clue it was arson by a third party?

  • Well, well, well . . .
    January 29, 2013 - 06:20

    How may restaurants have been in that location and how long have they lasted? From the smoke and ashes may the truth emerge. Yikes . . .

  • Joe Citizen
    January 29, 2013 - 04:54

    “I think it is going to be treated like a criminal investigation,’’ ...???

  • Sighs
    January 29, 2013 - 04:40

    Everything here still seems pretty fishy...