Five deaths in Brooklyn fire ruled homicides

February 1, 2010 2:29:23 PM PST
The building has been surrounded around the clock since it happened. Investigators believe they have talked to everyone, but say there may be one more person out there who can help them catch whoever did this.

Firefighters and police have in and out of the apartment building for the last three days

The victims had just seconds get out of the burning building Saturday morning.

Smell of smoke and piercing sound of yelling startled them out of their sleep.

In those frightful few seconds, Miguel and Luisa Chan were able to get their two year old son and two month old daughter out of the building on 86th Street. They were even forced to toss their infant out of a window to safety.

Marcelino Ajpacaja helped rescue the children. He says he heard glass breaking a women crying out for help.

A motive remained unclear in the blaze, the city's deadliest since a 2007 fire killed 10 people, nine of them children, in the Bronx. Saturday's blaze is believed to have started near the front door.

The cause of death for all five victims is smoke inhalation. Detective Luis Yero said the deaths have been ruled homicides.

Investigators are testing samples of the floor for accelerants and checking surveillance video in the Bensonhurst neighborhood.

The focus right now is convincing witness to come forward.

"We're looking for any information -- anyone getting on a bus, going in the building. Anybody who may be afraid because of their immigration status we're asking you to come forward," Yero said.

He said investigators were working with pastor who is acting as a liaison between investigators and possible witnesses.

The pastor of the Jovenes Cristianos Evangelical Church helped get a 21 year old man to tell police what he knew about the fire.

"There was a gentleman who was on the 3rd floor. He was afraid to come forward, but he came forward afterward," Pastor Erick Salgado said.

We tried to reach the building's owner, but he didn't answer the phone.

Another issue is the conditions inside the building.

Authorities say 20 people were living in four apartments, and the buildings department is looking into whether those apartments had been illegally subdivided.

According to a published report, someone complained about an illegal subdivision in November of 2008, but an inspection a few months later found no evidence of that.