BETHESDA, Md. - FOX 5 has learned that a 21-year-old man who died in a house fire in Bethesda had been hired to work in the basement of the home as part of a deal with the homeowner, who was able to escape the fire.
People who knew the victim, Askia Khafra, said he and the homeowner, Daniel Beckwitt, got to know each other when Beckwitt made an investment in a company that Khafra wanted to get off the ground. The two struck some kind of deal and Khafra agreed to come to Beckwitt’s house on Danbury Road to help Beckwitt excavate the tunnels and the bunker inside the home.
Khafra's friends also said he told them that he was blindfolded before he was brought to Beckwitt’s house every day so he wouldn't know where he was going. In fact, Khafra thought he was going to a house in Virginia.
FOX 5 has obtained photos showing Khafra inside the bunker at the Bethesda house.
According to a friend, one of the photos shows a tunnel that Khafra was working in inside the home. The friend said the picture was sent to him by Khafra and apparently shows buckets, a pulley and ropes in the tunnel.
Another photo shows Khafra wearing a helmet, a breathing apparatus and protection for his ears, which was posted this summer as his Facebook profile picture. Khafra's friends said the photo appears to have been taken inside the bunker of the house, a place he had been working since the summer.
The 21-year-old’s parents knew their son had been at the house. The deadly fire happened on Sept. 10 and the victim’s parents said he sent them a text message the day before the fire.
According to witnesses, Beckwitt was shirtless and covered in dirt after the fire happened. Fire officials said the homeowner has been cooperating with the investigation. However, a cause has not yet been determined so far.
Investigators have narrowed down where they think the fire started and are having some chemicals tested to determine what they are.
There has been no ruling from the medical examiner on a cause and manner of Khafra's death.
Montgomery County police are no longer watching the house around the clock.