|Print this story||Permalink|
Three people were killed and four injured in a fire that tore through the basement of an illegally subdivided home in Woodside early Saturday morning after first responders were sent to the wrong address, city Fire Department and Uniformed Firefighters Association officials said.
Two men died at the scene and a third was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he died. Three critically injured victims were taken to the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell burn center for treatment and a fourth was treated on the scene, according to a Fire Department spokesman.
Only one of the victims’ identities, 31-year-old SD Jahan, who was killed in the fire, had been released by Saturday evening.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, which was called in to dispatch at 2:45 a.m. Saturday and was under control at 3:41 a.m., but Cmdr. Randall Wilson of the Bureau of Fire Investigations said it started in the basement of the two-story home at 42-40 65th St.
Engine Co. 292, which is less than three blocks from the home, was initially sent to 62nd Street because of a typing error that caused a delay of “2 1/2 to three minutes,” in responding to the call, according to Leroy C. McGinnis, Queens trustee of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Engine Co. 325, located more than 15 blocks away on 51st Street, was the first company to arrive at the scene, McGinnis said.
“You can never tell if a couple-minute difference would’ve saved all three people. However, we never had the opportunity to find out,” he said, adding that the misdirection “was more than likely a human error.”
College student Ronne Barua, the son of a man who was in the home at the time of the fire and who a friend said was in the hospital Saturday afternoon, removed personal belongings from the home Saturday.
“It’s an upsetting situation,” he said. “People lost their lives over this.”
The basement of the two-story house had been converted into individual, single-room occupancies, a neighbor said. The city Department of Buildings issued three violations on the property for illegal occupancy, installing additional kitchens and bathrooms without a permit and for creating a cellar without a “means of escape.”
The Department of Buildings had received complaints regarding an illegal conversion at the building in 1990 and 2004, performed inspections and “found no evidence of an illegal conversion at that time,” according to department spokesperson Tony Sclafani.
The bars on the basement windows were cut with a saw to allow firefighters to enter the basement, according to Mark Hayes, a witness who lives on 65th Place three blocks from the home.
The occupants who sustained the most severe injuries, including the three who died, were in the basement at the time of the fire, Wilson said.
“We didn’t see no flames or nothing whatsoever, just some white smoke coming out of the house. It didn’t look so bad, then they brought a guy out from the side of the house and they were giving him CPR for like 10 to 15 minutes,” said Hayes, who said he was looking for a parking spot at about 3:30 a.m. when he saw the fire trucks near the house and decided to see what was happening. “A fireman told us there were a couple of casualties and that put us in shock. It’s bananas, it’s crazy.”
Early reports and neighbor testimony suggested the fire was caused by a boiler explosion, but Wilson dismissed that rumor, saying the cause is still being investigated.
“We’re looking at certain things. A boiler explosion, no, an explosion, no, but we are looking at several items downstairs. Obviously the appliances are all part of the investigation,” he said.
As of Saturday night, a 48-year-old male with burns about the body and smoke inhalation was in critical but stable condition, a 37-year-old male with burns to the face and neck was in critical but stable condition and a 30-year-old male with burns to the wrist and scalp was in stable condition and all were at Cornell, according to police.
NYPD and hospital representatives did not have updates on their conditions Tuesday.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
|Print this story||Permalink|
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.