Queens House Fire Kills Three, Leaves Four Injured

NY Post - November 07, 2009

by KIRSTIN FLEMING, GEORGETT ROBERTS and ANGELA MONTEFINISE

A deadly fire ripped through an illegally converted Queens home early this morning, killing three and leaving four injured, authorities said.

Two people were found dead in the basement and one died of cardiac arrest at Elmhurst Hospital shortly after the blaze broke out at the two-family house on 42nd Avenue and 60th Street in Woodside at about 2:45 a.m., the Fire Department said.

Four others were injured and taken to the Weill Cornell burn unit.

The wood-frame home -- owned by Subir and Marina Barua -- was illegally divided to house five families, according to sources at the scene and a complaint filed this morning with the Department of Buildings.

A man identifying himself as the owner's brother said 10 people were living at the house, including the Baruas and their two children.

The man said his brother is one of the four in the hospital, and said he believes the boiler exploded in the basement, where the fire broke out.

"All I know is there was a big sound, a big bang," the man said. "There's fire. They ran out."

Neighbors confirmed the loud noise: "I was sleeping when I heard a big bang," said Mohammad Hannan, 35, who lives around the corner.

The house had two prior complaints of illegal conversions, one in 1990 and one in 2004, Building records show. In both instances, a city inspector tossed the complaints without issuing violations, claiming to find no evidence of illegal apartments.

"Cellar OK," read the the inspector's report after the 2004 complaint.