SHIRLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A weekend fire that killed a mother and her three children on Long Island has left a community in shock.
As WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, there is a growing memorial outside the charred Shirley home where four members of a family died late Friday night.
Stuffed animals, candles, balloons and toys of the three children who died have been placed on the home’s front lawn.
Jennifer McCusker, 41, her 7-year-old son Aidan Tarbell and 2-year-old twins Ava Jane and Brendan Mistretta all died in the fast-moving fire at the Hollywood Drive home, which broke out after 10 p.m. on Friday.
“Very difficult. It’s such a sad situation, the little children; it’s awful,” one neighbor told Xirinachs. “It’s a tragedy, these are little babies, you’re talking about children.”
“This is a strong block, it’s a strong block,” a man added.
A neighbor saw flames at the home Friday night and called 911 as her two sons tried to get into the home, Suffolk County police said. The two men – one of whom is an emergency medical technician and the other of whom is a firefighter – could not enter the home due to smoke and heat.
Neighbors said the house was already engulfed by the time firefighters arrived.
The family was well known to neighbors, who said the twins’ father was not home because he worked the night shift. The children have different fathers.
Police said McCusker was holding one of the twins, and trying to get the other from a crib, when she collapsed inside the one-story home.
“It appears that the mother was attempting to remove one of the children or had removed one of the children from the crib and was attempting to move the other child from the crib when she had become unconscious,” Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick explained.
On Saturday night, a choked up Peter Mistretta faced the grim reality that his family was gone.
“Aidan, Brendan and Ava were the three best kids that any father could hope for,” he told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.
Authorities continue investigating the cause of the fire.
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