Family of man killed in underground tunnel fire suing man charged in his death

(PHOTO: Montgomery Co. Police)

BETHESDA, Md. – This week marked the anniversary of an underground tunnel fire that killed 21-year-old Askia Khafra.

Khafra was helping Daniel Lewis Beckwitt, 27, build a series of underground tunnels at his Bethesda home for a bunker.

On Monday, the parents of Khafra sued Beckwitt and his father.

They are asking for $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest, costs and any other relief to which the Court finds they are entitled.

Beckwitt was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the death Khafra.

The fire happened around 4:23 p.m. on September 10, 2017 at a home in the 5200 block of Danbury Rd., Bethesda, Md. Charging documents said Khafra’s “naked, charred body” was found in the home’s basement.

It added that investigators found a shaft in the basement went down about 20 feet to “an underground tunnel complex” that branched out about 200 feet under the home.

Beckwitt told investigators that on multiple occasions, he would rent a car, pick up Khafra from his home in Silver Spring, Md., then drive him to Manassas, Va. There he would make Khafra wear black-out sunglasses so he would not be able to see. Beckwitt would then tell Khafra he was driving to an undisclosed location in Virginia, but instead drove Khafra back to his home in Bethesda. Khafra was not allowed to remove the sunglasses until he was in the home’s basement.

The charging documents stated that the home was kept in “‘hoarder’ conditions” with “immense piles of garbage” throughout the home. It added that the “substantial electrical needs” of the tunnel meant there was a “haphazard daisy-chain of extension cords and plug extenders” that created a substantial fire risk.

The charging documents said that Beckwitt knew of the fire hazard hours before the fire happened, but he did not remove Khafra from the home.