Contractor Arrested After Inferno Overtakes Queens Apartment Building, Leaving Dozens Displaced: FDNY

WNBC 4 - April 14, 2017

by Marc Santia

Nearly a dozen firefighters suffered minor injuries in the blaze

FDNY fire marshals arrested a contractor a day after an inferno tore through a Queens building, damaging more than 100 apartments and displacing dozens of people.

Declan Mcelhatton, 53, of Maintenance Asset Management in Yonkers was arrested in connection with the massive blaze, which burned at the six-story apartment building in Elmhurst for hours on Tuesday evening.

Mcelhatton will be charged with arson and reckless endangerment, the FDNY said. He allegedly used a blowtoch on the roof without a permit.

In a tweet Wednesday, the FDNY said the cause of the massive fire was "open flame in close proximity to combustibles."

Building resident Richard Guerrero says the work was being done above his apartment, and that the contractor had been remodeling the floor using blowtorches.

Neighbor Jay Banfield, whose apartment was left waterlogged after the fire, said he's happy an arrest was made.

"We knew something was up," he said.

There was no answer at Mcelhatton's home in Westchester Thursday, and his attorney declined to speak to News 4.

The building on 94th Street had two permits with the city, one for equipment -- a pipe scaffold -- and the other for general construction for facade and balcony restoration. There was no permit allowing blowtorch work on the roof.

Alex Esdelle, who escaped the fire with only the clothes on his back and a cellphone, said of Mcelhatton, "He deserves everything that comes to him."