Quick-Thinking Queens Neighbors Rescue Kids, Pets Trapped in Apartment Building Fire

NY Daily News - February 14, 2017

by ANDY MAI JOHN ANNESE

A group of quick-thinking neighbors dragged a discarded mattress to the side of a burning building Sunday to save three trapped girls and their beloved pets from a smoke-filled Queens apartment.

Ramonita Rosa, 34, said her daughters, niece and nephew thought they were going to die when thick black smoke poured into their second-floor apartment on Waldron St. near Martense Ave. in Corona just before 10 a.m.

“It was like a roar, you know how the lion roars? That’s how it was when I opened my door,” she said of the smoke. “I’m screaming, ‘Help! Help! We can’t breathe!’ We basically were suffocating in the apartment.” The fire had broken out in the basement, and her daughters, Arianna, 16, and Gianna, 10, were trapped in their apartment with her niece and nephew, Jaylynn, 12, and Jacob Vega, 10, and the family dogs — a Yorkie named Brownie and a Jack Russell terrier named Oreo.

Luckily, their next-door neighbors, Tonya Cruz, 48, and her daughter, Gabriella, 25, had already escaped by jumping out of their window onto two garbage bags put out by another neighbor to cushion their fall.

As they started to drag the trash bags toward Rosa’s window, Tonya Cruz noticed a mattress near a van.

“I don’t know where it came from, but it was there, and thank God it was there,” Gabriella Cruz said. Mother and daughter pulled the mattress beneath the window. The building’s super, Roberto Florez, joined the rescue, helping to catch Rosa’s daughters and niece.

Jaylynn went first, followed by Gianna, the dogs, and Arianna.

“All I was thinking was ‘I don’t want to die in this scenario,’ ” Jaylynn said. “I was just thinking I don’t want to die this way and jumped.”

By the time Rosa and Jacob were ready to jump, firefighters had set up a ladder. FDNY officials said 14 people were injured, one seriously. Seven went to North Shore University Hospital for treatment, while seven refused aid, officials said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.