Deadly fire called suspicious

February 19, 2009 9:09:46 PM PST
A fire that killed a mother and three of her children has been called suspicious by investigators.It was a horrifying scene. Neighbors say one family had to throw their toddlers out the window to safety, but another family is now broken.

  • SLIDES: Images from the Deadly Fire

    Police have identified the victims as 46-year-old Marena Vanegas, her 20-year-old son, Saul Presa, and daughters Andrea Vanegas and Susanna Vanegas. Andrea was 13, and Susanna was 9.

    The blaze may have started on a stairway and prevented their escape, police and fire officials said.

    "We're absolutely focusing on the stairwell," Nassau County Fire Marshal Vincent McManus told reporters as a specially trained dog used to locate accelerants sniffed around the entrance to the two-story building. Investigators considered the fire suspicious, but the cause had not been determined.

    Before fire crews arrived, onlookers begged the two families to jump from the second floor. Eight of them, including the woman's husband and two other children, survived the early-morning blaze by jumping out of those second floor windows

    The fire was so intense that flames damaged an adjoining building, displacing about 20 people. The Red Cross was trying to find housing for them.

    Mike Deery, a spokesman for the town of Hempstead, said there were no building violations on record. He said officials were still investigating whether the building was required to have a fire escape.

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    Web Produced By: Scott Curkin & Lakisha Bostick A mother and three of her children are dead after being trapped inside their second-floor Long Island apartment. Police and fire officials say the blaze may have started on a stairway and prevented their escape, police and fire officials said. Police have identified the victims as 46-year-old Marena Vanegas, her 20-year-old son, Saul Presa, and daughters Andrea Vanegas and Susanna Vanegas. Andrea was 13, and Susanna was 9. Eight others - including the woman's husband and two other children - survived the early-morning blaze by jumping out second-story windows, where emergency responders and passers-by helped them to safety. None of them was seriously injured. Authorities are investigating whether the two-story building was required to have a fire escape, which it did not.


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