Officials: Deadly Queens fire suspicious

3 people dead, 2 people critical
June 24, 2008 8:46:33 AM PDT
Investigators are trying to determine the exact cause of a suspicious fire in Queens that killed three people this weekend. The fire raced through an apartment building yesterday morning-- with witnesses bravely trying to help some of the victims. Five people were hurt terribly. Eyewitness News now knows, as of this morning that two people are critical and six firefighters, as well were hurt.

Some people panicked in this fire, others acted heroically. A nearby deli manager grabbed gallons of bottled water to throw on his neighbors who were running out of the building on fire.

The fire scene at 69th Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village was bedlam. Victims jumped from burning apartments as firefighters tried to save people who were enflamed.

"...They come into the deli...and they were on fire. I used the gallons of water...I threw all the water on them," deli owner Mohammad Almateri said.

He used gallon water jugs to help those victims.

While outside, another tenant trying to escape the fire came out of her second-floor window. She waited on the ledge for firefighters to reach her...that's when time ran out.

"While we were putting our ladders up, the woman from the third floor jumped down. She caught her (the woman on the second floor) and they both came to the street," Deputy Chief Steven Kubler said.

Investigators say the fire started around 7:30 in the morning at the building's entrance. It spreaded at an unusual speed. Investigators say that could be because so many people opened doors and windows to escape.

Always keep your doors closed and firefighters tell Eyewitness News the fire was started by someone in the stairwell. And the arson investigation continues today.

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Michelle Charlesworth
WEB PRODUCED: Lakisha Bostick