NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An elderly woman is dead and another woman is seriously injured in an overnight fire in Brooklyn.
The shock is now settling in for Barbara Wilson as she realizes she’ll never see her mother, 81-year-old Gertrude Duncan, again.
“It hurt, it hurt it,” Wilson told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “I don’t know how I’m going to forget it.”
Duncan, who was known to neighbors as “grandma,” was killed when a fire broke out around 1:15 a.m. Thursday inside a four-story brownstone on Pacific Street in Crown Heights.
She lived there with her daughter, grandson and her daughter’s boyfriend. Wilson said she tried to save her mother from her next door apartment, battling the heat and thick air, but the conditions were too dangerous.
“When we get in, my son tried to grab me but I fought back,” she said.
“Her grandson and her daughter was trying but they couldn’t get in because the door was locked,”said Wilson’s boyfriend, Preston Godfrey. “They was trying, but they just couldn’t get in and when they do get in, there was too much smoke.”
Other tenants woke up to the flames and cries for help, realizing they too needed to escape. One tenant, Eric Burke, had to use a cable wire to climb down from the top floor, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
“I couldn’t hit the staircase because the smoke was so heavy, I had to go back in the apartment and hit the window, hot out the AC sitting out the window,” he said.
He climbed down a wire to get to safety.
“I just hit the cable wire, and take my time, and come down the cable wire down the building side,” he said.
“I work in construction, so trust me, I tell myself that I’m not going to stay up in here, I’ve got to come down,” he said. “Only the smoke was hitting me, nothing else.”
“I told him just take the cable wire and come down,” neighbor Maher Janian said. “And if anything happens, I’m under I can help you.”
Firefighters were eventually able to control the flames, only to find the four apartments badly charred inside. Authorities said another 49-year-old woman suffered burns to her hands and was taken to the hospital in stable condition.
Duncan has seven children and moved here from Jamaica over 20 years ago.
“She was very sweet,” said neighbor Susanne Mattiello. “It’s horrible.”
“She was loving everybody,” Wilson said. “Loved her, she talked to people.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.