January, 2010 Fire Claimed Five Lives

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man convicted of setting a fire in a Bensonhurst apartment building that claimed five lives was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced Thursday afternoon.

Daniel Ignacio, 31, was convicted last month on five counts of murder, arson and other charges for intentionally setting the 2010 blaze.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, the sentence was the closure that widower Miguel Chan said he’s been waiting for.

“Peace in my heart,” Chan told Burrell.

The fire claimed the lives of Chan’s wife, Luisa, and four others, leaving Chan a single father of two young children.

Chan, who sat through Ignacio’s trial, choked up in court as he pleaded with the judge through a translator to give Ignacio the maximum sentence.

At sentencing, Ignacio showed remorse for his actions.

“Your honor, I don’t remember nothing,” Ignacio told the judge through a translator. “If it was my fault, I’m sorry.”

Prosecutors successfully argued that Ignacio started a fire in the vestibule of his 86th Street apartment building on Jan. 30, 2010.

He lit a roll of toilet paper that was soaked with flammable liquid, and threw it in an empty stroller.

Ignacio then went upstairs to his second-floor apartment. Shortly after, the building went up in flames, killing five of his neighbors, the jury found.

A depiction of the second floor at the Bensonhurst apartment released by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. (credit: Brooklyn DA/Handout)

A depiction of the second floor at the Bensonhurst apartment released by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. (credit: Brooklyn DA/Handout)

Ignacio told the court he was drunk on the night he sparked the blaze and never meant to start a fire.

Surveillance cameras captured the dramatic moment when Chan was forced to throw his infant daughter from his third-story apartment to try to save them from the raging fire inside. The little girl was just 3 months old at the time and was thrown to the ground in a car seat.

Chan said his daughter now suffers from epilepsy as result of the fall. Meanwhile, Chan’s son was helped out of the building by firefighters.

But for Chan, sorry isn’t enough as he struggles to explain to his kids why their mother will never return.

“One day when he will be more years he’s going to understand what happened,” Chan told Burrell.

Ignacio is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. His attorney said he plans to appeal the sentence.

Also charged in connection with the blaze were the landlords for the building – father-and-son team Vasilios and Argyrios Gerazounis, who allegedly set up illegal partitions that blocked residents’ way out of the building.

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