Mother, teen die following Flushing fire

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A mother and her teenage son who were critically hurt in a Flushing fire Aug. 17 died of their injuries three days after the early morning blaze that destroyed the family’s longtime 64th Avenue home, the woman’s father said this week.

Jacques Brawer, 74, said his daughter Lynette, 39, and grandson Joey, 13, both died of smoke inhalation.

“They had remained in the house too long for any hope of revival,” said Brawer, who said his daughter and grandson were declared brain dead Sunday and taken off life support. The two had been unresponsive since being pulled from the fire three days before.

Brawer has been staying with relatives in Flushing since the blaze occurred, he said.

Brawer, who raised his three daughters in the three-story brick house in Flushing, said his children and grandchildren were visiting him from Arlington, Va. at the time of the fire. Brawer’s wife died 10 months ago after a prolonged illness, he said. His eldest daughter died a decade ago, Brawer said.

Brawer’s two daughters lived with their young sons as neighbors down in Arlington, he said, and the cousins were extremely close.

“They were more like brothers,” Brawer said of his grandsons, who were about seven months apart in age.

His other daughter, Jenny, had left early for Arlington with her son before the fire broke out, Brawer said, because they wanted to return to a new puppy they had recently bought.

“It was my wife’s birthday on Aug. 16 and they were visiting for that,” said Brawer, who said the family went to see the unveiling of his wife Lily’s grave on Long Island. “We were all together.”

Brawer was supposed to leave with Lynette and Joey Aug. 20 to celebrate a wedding in his native Belgium, he said. Jenny was not expected to go on the journey to Belgium, Brawer said, because she and her family had just returned from a trip to Europe last month.

Instead of celebrating a wedding, Brawer held funerals last week for his daughter and grandson. Brawer came to America in 1957 and lived in Brooklyn for six months before moving to Queens.

A spokesman for the city Fire Department said Monday there was still no official cause for the blaze, which broke out at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 17. It took more than 100 firefighters to quell the flames that destroyed the 64th Avenue home, which sits less than a block from Queens College.

Lynette Brawer was an aspiring singer and composer who played with a band in Virginia and taught piano, Brawer said.

“She was always hoping she would break out,” he said of Lynette’s search for fame. “She had a very powerful voice and knew how to belt out a song.”

“My grandson was the greatest,” Brawer said. “So vibrant, so alive. He was my sidekick.”

Brawer had lived in the house on 64th Avenue for 38 years, he said.

“This house is my second skin,” Brawer said in an interview Monday. “I felt secure in it.”

That home became a fatal inferno, which Brawer escaped by chance.

“I woke up at about 1 a.m. to go to the bathroom and I smelled smoke,” he said. “I opened the window and felt the heat and smoke and as I went downstairs the heat felt much stronger.”

The elderly man eventually made it outside and heard his daughter calling for help.

“They were screaming at me,” he said. “She was asking me what was happening. I heard her twice, and then no more.

“I was screaming ‘get them out,’” he said. “It was to no avail.”

The fire gutted the home, leaving personal effects like shoes, clothes and books charred and strewn about the sidewalk in front of the house.

Tragedy is not new to the Brawer family. His eldest daughter Peggy died of breast cancer 10 years ago at the age of 42, Brawer said, and his wife endured a long illness before her death late last year.

“All of my life it was a school of hard knocks,” he said this week as he reflected on his family’s painful history. “I’m here to pick up the pieces, that’s all.”

“They were two wonderful people cut off in their prime,” he said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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