Crack Pipes Found After Fire That Hurt Ex-Knicks Player

NY Times - November 25, 2009


Fire marshals are investigating whether crack pipes discarded in a Bronx row house played a part in sparking a fire on Sunday that critically injured Dean Meminger, a former player for the New York Knicks.

Investigators discovered several crack pipes inside 1308 Findlay Avenue, where the four-alarm fire began at 9:20 p.m. on Sunday, city officials said. Mr. Meminger, 62, lived on the second floor of the building and was unconscious when he was discovered in his room and pulled from the flames.

Francis X. Gribbon, the Fire Department's chief spokesman, said on Tuesday that investigators had not yet determined a cause for the blaze, which spread through a connected wood-frame houses in the Claremont neighborhood.

"They have not been able to pinpoint the exact location where the fire started," he said.

Nine firefighters suffered minor injuries, and 16 families needed help from the Red Cross, which found them temporary housing at Bronx hotels.

Mr. Meminger was listed in critical but stable condition on Tuesday at Jacobi Medical Center, said Barbara DeIorio, a hospital spokeswoman.

Officials have not spoken with him about the blaze, they said.

Mr. Meminger, a schoolboy basketball whiz who went from Rice High School in Harlem to Marquette University to the National Basketball Association, played with the Knicks in the 1970s and was known as Dean the Dream.

Mr. Meminger described his battles with drug use in a 2003 interview with The New York Times. He said that his use of cocaine had escalated when he left the pros, and that, though he was treated at the Hazelden treatment center for addiction in Minnesota, he had had several relapses in the 1990s.

His son, Dean Meminger Jr., who is a reporter and an anchor at NY1 News, was not available for comment on Tuesday, said Nikia Redhead, a station spokeswoman. But, in a statement, she said: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Meminger family. We are wishing him a speedy recovery."

The spreading fire on Sunday eventually affected six addresses. The city's Buildings Department has issued orders to vacate five of them. "The property owners are currently in the process of repairing those buildings," said Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the department. "None of the buildings are being demolished at this time."