Investigation underway into deadly Shirley fire

Darla Miles has the story from Shirley.
October 13, 2013 5:05:47 AM PDT
Investigators are on the scene of a house fire in Shirley, Long Island that killed a mother and her three children.

Authorities say the fire appeared to have started in the living room of the single-story home, but the cause is still not clear.

Just about two hours after Jennifer McCusker put her three kids to bed, 7-year-old Aidan Tarbell and two-year-old twins Brendan and Ava Jane Mistretta, investigators say neighbors called 911 to report a fire Friday evening around 10:15. at 16 Hollywood Drive.

Firefighters say they found McCusker in a bedroom where it appeared she was trying to remove one of the twins from their crib, but didn't make it out.

The older boy, Aidan, was found in another bedroom.

Police say neighbors tried to help.

"A neighbor saw those flames and called 911," said Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick of the Suffolk County Police Dept. "The neighbor's adult son attempted to gain entry into the home, wasn't able to and was driven back by the smoke and flame, tried to gain entry at the rear of the home and again could not."

Authorities say the fire appears to have started in the living room of the small home and spread quickly.

One neighbor told authorities the house seemed fine one minute, then was engulfed in flames no more than 15 minutes later.

The children had different fathers. One lived in the house but wasn't home at the time of the fire, police said.

Autopsies on the victims were being performed by the county medical examiner.

"We're devastated. The whole block is devastated. They are 2 and 7 years old. They didn't even get a chance at life yet," said neighbor Sharon Browning.

In a matter of hours, friends and neighbors started a memorial outside of the family's home. They were all eager for the fire marshal to determine what started the blaze that took the devoted mother and endearing children away.