NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police have identified the man who was killed in a late night fire at an apartment building in Brooklyn that also left four others hurt.
Flames broke out just after 10 p.m. Thursday in a second-floor apartment and quickly spread smoke through the building on Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights.
“It was a lot of smoke. You could not see in front of you,” resident Tiasha Bannister said.
“Going from the lobby, you couldn’t even see the lighting into the lobby because it was so dark,” building superintendent Richard Joseph said.
Tenants desperately searched in the thick, cloudy air for their loved ones as they tried to escape as quickly as possible.
“We had noticed that there was smoke coming out. By the time we went to the door, there was smoke,” said resident Shatoya Killings. “The lady that was on top of us was breaking out her glass because she couldn’t go through the hallway because she was overtaken by the smoke.”
One tenant even risked his own life to save others.
“Couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and I went upstairs and tried to help people down,” said resident Brian Attianese. “And firemen were coming behind me, and they were bringing people out, and I just tried to assist and help.”
Authorities said firefighters later found 56-year-old Rupert Smith unconscious and unresponsive with burns on his body inside an apartment. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police say that Smith was emotionally disturbed and has set fires in the past, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported. Officials are investigating the cause of the fire and looking into whether Smith may have been responsible.
The medical examiner will now determine his exact cause of death.
Meanwhile, landlord Isaac Hager says damage appears to be minimal across the building, but he hopes to have the second-floor apartment cleaned up in two weeks so Smith’s roommate can move back in.
“I will try to clean the apartment immediately and fix it and put it back to normal as fast as I can because it’s very important to me that people have housing and a place to live,” Hager said.
The American Red Cross is helping families displaced by the fire.