House Fire in Queens Kills Two

NY Times - December 05, 2005

by ANAHAD O'CONNOR

A man and a woman were killed early yesterday when a fire destroyed their Queens home, the Fire Department said.

The fire, which began about 7 a.m., started in a basement room, where the bodies of the victims were found, and then raced through the rest of the two-story house at 135-54 Bedell Street in Springfield Gardens, according to fire officials. At least four other people who lived in the house escaped just before it became engulfed in flames. The cause of the blaze was still under investigation last night, but a spokesman for the Fire Department, Dave McGovern, said it was being looked upon as suspicious.

The names of the victims were not released. But Jean Comas, 46, who lives next door, said that the male victim was in his mid-50's and was known in the neighborhood as "Steve-O." He said that the victim had lived for the last several years in the basement of the house, which he shared with three cousins - one about 11 and two others in their late teens - and their grandmother, who owned the house.

Mr. Comas said that the woman who died, who was in her 40's, was the man's companion. He added that the man, considered a bit eccentric, always wore a Haitian flag, either on his head as a bandanna or wrapped around his knee - although he was not from Haiti.

Mr. Comas said that one of the house's residents, Kenyetta, 17, banged on his door about 7 a.m., dressed in pajamas and yelling for help. When he looked outside, he said, the house was on fire and the girls were standing outside with their grandmother shivering in the cold.

"They were all out there wearing almost nothing," he said. "I had to grab a bunch of jackets and run outside with my niece to help them. They were all crying and upset."

The fire was extinguished about 8:45 a.m. Although the exterior walls were still standing, the first and second floors had collapsed into the basement, and the house had to be demolished, said Phil Gibbs, the supervising fire marshal.

He said that the survivors disappeared before the police could speak with them. "We're looking for them right now," he said.