Miguel Chan, 38, says that his wife was the first to notice the smoke. When she realized they were trapped, she strapped their 2-month-old daughter into a car seat, which he tried to throw from the window of their third-floor window to a neighbor on the street below. The baby, who struck the pavement, is in critical condition but is expected to live. He managed to lower 2-year-old Josias to a neighbor on the second floor, where firefighters were able to rescue him. Chan was reached by a ladder, but was unable to find Ordoñez.
Chan, who works as a plumber, told police that gang-related graffiti was recently sprayed on the front door of the building. He suspects a connection to the fire, which the FDNY is investigating as a possible arson. The Post found records citing the building, which investigators say housed as many as 20 people, for an illegal conversion in 2008. Fire doors were reportedly blocked, and there were no smoke detectors. So far, no-one has been able to reach the owner for comment.
New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said today that this morning’s fire in a mixed-use Bensonhurst building which killed five tenants and critically injured an infant is being investigated as a possible arson. “[I]t started right behind the front door to the entrance and that’s not where a fire would normally start. That’s why this is a fire that we are saying it is very likely to be incendiary.”
The alarm was sent in at 2:30 am, and firefighters responded within three minutes, but were unable to enter until 3:30. They were later pulled from the building after one of their number fell through the floor to the basement below. He was pulled out, but officers at the scene ruled that conditions were unsafe and ordered rescuers out of the building. Shortly afterwards, the inside of the building collapsed. The blaze was ruled under control at 5:15.
In the interim, four men and a woman, identified by as neighbor as Luisa Ordonez, who were trapped inside are known to have been killed. A child thought to be Ordonez’ baby, who was thrown from a window and missed in the darkness, was taken to Lutheran Hospital and later Schneider Children’s Hospital on Long Island with severe head injuries. A second child was caught by firefighters and escaped serious injury. Thirteen of the 138 firefighters who responded to the fire and two additional adults were injured. Investigators are not ruling out additional deaths.
Cassano said that the 3-story building, which contained two apartments and a ground-floor japanese restaurant, may have had as many as 20 people living in it. Investigators say that there were no working smoke alarms, and furniture was blocking fire exits. They plan to look for additional code violations, as well as checking the entryway flooring for accelerant.
NY1 is reporting that train service to the area is being affected. Currently, the D train is running on the N line between 36th Street and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue, while some Brookllyn-bound D trains are terminating at 62nd Street. Shuttle buses will be available to the end of the line.