MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A couple and their two adult children died in an early morning blaze that raged through a two-story multi-dwelling house in Mount Vernon on Tuesday.
The fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. at 11 South Bond Street.
Fire Chief Ted Stevenson said that the son and daughter who died had initially escaped the fire, but went back inside the home to try and save their parents, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis said the fire commissioner told him a car parked at the back of the house caught fire and ignited the building and people were unable to escape from their ground-floor apartment.
While the fire is not suspicious, what initially sparked the flames is under investigation. The car was parked about 4 feet from the apartment, Rincon reported.
“The fatal mistake was that the car was parked 4-ft from the entrance to the apartment,” Chief Stevenson said.
“One person was on the staircase trying to get out but was engulfed in the fire,” Davis said.
Mount Vernon Deputy Chief John Battista said the fire was shooting out of every entrance to the basement apartment and the rear of the house. It took firefighters several hours to get the blaze under control.
“We had fire all around us,” he said. “Their exit was blocked with fire in the rear. We attempted to get the interior stairwell, the door was bolted we couldn’t get down.”
The house sustained heavy damage up to the top floor. The back of the house was blackened and the windows and doors were gone.
One body was found at the stairwell of the cellar; the other three victims were found in other parts of the basement. Two of the bodies were burned, Battista said.
Fire officials described a devastating scene, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
“The window was open. It created a blow torch. The victims had no way out,” Chief Stevenson said.
Relatives identified the dead as Alcedo Urena, in his 60s, his 39-year-old wife Nancy Urena and their children, 21-year-old Jesus Urena and 19-year-old Mariselis Urena.
Their youngest son, 17-year-old Raymundo, is recovering from serious burns.
“It’s really sad,” said relative Diomerissa Urena. “My other cousin’s in the hospital, in bad condition too.”
Raymundo’s siblings almost survived, but relatives said they refused to leave their parents.
“The two oldest ones got out, but went back to get their mother and father,” said Richard Fernandez, Alcedo Urena’s grandson. “They fainted in there.”
Jose Brito, a nephew of Urena, said his uncle had lived in the United States for a long time but that his wife and children arrived from the Dominican Republic a few years ago.
“It was the family in this neighborhood that everybody would go visit,” Brito said of the Urenas. “They were always cooking and making coffee for everybody.”
One civilian and three firefighters were also injured. Battista said they were taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Three families lived in the house, each occupying one floor, said Abigail Adams, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, which was assisting the families that lived on the top floors: two adults with one child and two adults with two children.
The city’s buildings department is also investigating. Officials said the house was converted into apartments illegally, without proper permits and possibly without the right safety precautions.
“There were locks that should not have been there,” Davis said.
On Tuesday evening, officials were still looking into whether the basement apartment was legal, CBS 2’s Slattery reported. The apartment did have a smoke detector which was working.
Authorities do not know what exactly sparked the fire. The homeowner faces several building violations.
Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com:
- ‘Spotlight,’ Dano, Powley Big Winners At Gotham Independent Film Awards
- Sheldon Silver Found Guilty On All Counts In Corruption Trial
- Seen At 11: Can Worrying Take Years From Your Life?
- North Babylon Man Rescues Disabled Neighbor From Burning Home
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)