Today’s news:

Jackson Heights blaze kills 59-year-old amputee

John Morales, who lost a leg two years ago, died when he was trapped inside the apartment he shared with his mother at 94-26 34th Road, police and neighbors said."He was a good guy," said Edwin Ortiz, 34, who lived next door to Morales for 24 years. "He had an amputated leg. We always used to say 'hi' to each other."The man had worn a prosthetic since losing his leg to diabetes. A neighbor said Morales lived in the apartment for three decades. He was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at 4:10 p.m. at Elmhurst General Hospital, about an hour after the fire was reported at 3:08 p.m., fire officials said. It went to a third alarm by 3:30 p.m. and was brought under control at 4:38 p.m., fire officials said. The other injured residents were taken to Elmhurst, where the three firefighters were treated for minor injuries, fire officials said. A Fire Department spokesman said the cause of the fire was under investigation.Distraught residents returned to the six-story building Monday to gather their belongings. Ivan Mercado, 36, said the blaze destroyed the apartment of his 67-year-old father, Archimedes Mercado. "He's all right. He's just got a lot of water damage to his apartment," Mercado said. "He had to get vacated. For now he's staying with me."Ortiz said he left his family's apartment minutes before the fire broke out. He heard the fire engines when he was a few blocks away and ran back to the scene. "I look up and I see the fire guys coming out of my bedroom window," he said. He learned that all his belongings were destroyed when he was finally let back upstairs Monday. "It's devastating," he said. "That's like my home."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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