NY Post - December 29, 2009by IKIMULISA LIVINGSTON and TOM NAMAKO
It was a leap of faith she wouldn't take.
A 17-year-old girl died in a suspicious fire early yesterday morning in Bushwick when she refused to follow her friends and jump from a second-floor window to safety.
FDNY officials are eyeing arson as a possible cause of the two-alarm blaze that killed Sofia Olivo, a student at Grover Cleveland HS.
Investigators found a large red gasoline canister at 55 Harrison Place, the apartment building in which Olivo died.
Five other people and three firefighters were also injured. Some survivors needed medical attention after making the 12-foot jump from the second floor.
Olivo's friends and family recalled her yesterday as "beautiful," "happy" and "upbeat."
"She was good, she was a good girl. I still can't believe she's gone forever," wailed Antonio Olivo, 51, Sofia's father.
"The cops told me, 'You don't want to see her.' She was burned. They took a picture. I found out through the picture," he said.
Antonio Olivo said he wants to see justice served if an arsonist started the blaze.
"I don't want revenge, but I want the law to take care of it," he said.
Fire officials said they were still investigating.
The tragedy began as an innocent sleepover at the apartment of Olivo's best friend, Martha Quiñones, and her brother, Tony.
Olivo's cousin from Florida, Lea Rios, was also staying the night, said Giselle Barnes, 18, a friend who spoke to Quiñones while she was being treated at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
When the flames broke out on a ground-level apartment at around 4:30 a.m., Quiñones woke up and yelled, "Fire! Fire! Everyone out," Barnes said.
Quiñones and Tony jumped out of the window. Rios, who later jumped herself, pleaded with Olivo to do the same.
"Sofia said, 'No, I'm taking the fire escape. I'll meet you on the other side,' " said Barnes, who added that Olivo had asthma. "She didn't make it back."
Firefighters pulled Olivo out of the house, but could not revive her.
"It was either jump or burn," said Alex Ramos, 26, who lived on the same floor as Quiñones.
"I smelled smoke and it was getting hot. I opened my door and there were flames everywhere. I heard screams coming from their apartment."
Olivo's father and FDNY brass agreed that the house was a death trap.
"The conditions were bad structurally. The stairs were compromised," said Deputy Chief Paul Mannix.