Elderly Couple Dies in East Side Apartment Blaze

NY Daily News - January 13, 2019

by WES PARNELL, THEODORE PARISENNE and THOMAS TRACY

An elderly man who once headed a prominent Manhattan law firm and his wife died early Saturday in a raging fire that tore through their posh East Side apartment, officials said.

The blaze erupted about 5:20 a.m. inside the ninth floor apartment of 89-year-old John Merow, and his wife Mary, 85, in the palatial River House co-op building on E. 52nd St., off the East River.

“Upon arrival we were met with a heavy fire condition,” FDNY Chief James Coyne said. “It was a very difficult operation...high heat, zero visibility and it was a very large apartment with a complex layout.”

More than 75 FDNY firefighters and medics rushed to the scene, but they couldn’t Mary Merow, who died of severe burns, officials said.

Her husband died a short time later after he was rushed to New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center, officials said.

Neighbors were stunned by their deaths.

“He was a wonderful person, wonderful human being, very smart, very generous... just a fantastic person,” longtime neighbor Nancy Lieberman said. “And his wife, every time I met her she greeted me with a big smile on her face. She was just very nice people.”

Conye said when firefighters arrived “there was fire venting out of the building.”

“The windows were out, so there was plenty of air adding fuel to the fire,” he said, adding the apartment had smoke alarms.

The fire was extinguished about 6:45 a.m. The FDNY’s Fire Marshal’s office was investigating.

Merrow was a U.S. Navy veteran and graduated Harvard Law School. He was a member of Brock Capital Group and the former chairman and senior partner of the law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell.

Five firefighters were injured fighting the blaze. Three were taken to New York Weill-Cornell with non-life-threatening injuries. Two firefighters refused medical attention, officials said.