NORTH MASSAPEQUA, New York (WABC) --One person died in a house fire on Long Island Thursday morning, and a pedestrian was critically injured when a police cruiser responding to the scene got into an accident with another vehicle.
The flames broke out at a home on North Suffolk Avenue in North Massapequa just after 9 a.m.
Firefighters from nine departments responded, and rescue crews pulled one victim from the structure. But sadly, that person -- a 79-year-old man in a wheelchair -- later died.
Maureen Carston lives next door and said she felt helpless as she watched the home burn with her friend inside.
"The two police officers that came at first, that were with me, were trying to break into the house," she said. "And we were calling his name."
Firefighters tried to gain access, but the blaze was too intense.
"Our officers did a phenomenal job trying to enter that house," Nassau County Detective Lieutenant Richard Lebrun said. "But at that time, it was just too hot and too smoky to enter."
The victim's name has not yet been released, but Carston said he was a retired NYPD captain.
"Good man, good man, it's a sad day for us," Carston said. "Especially when we knew he was on the other side, and he was trying to get out. It was heartbreaking."
The fire was extinguished in about an hour.
The accident happened on Broadway while the officer was responding to the fire call. Authorities say the cruiser collided with a Toyota Camry driving by a 63-year-old woman, who lost control of the vehicle and struck a male pedestrian who was crossing the street and then the storefront of a hair salon.
The impact tossed the pedestrian into a Nissan Rogue parked on the corner, and that victim is now listed in critical condition.
"When you hear glass shatter, that's what it sounded like," one witness said.
Lisa Digiovanni had an appointed scheduled at that salon just hours after the crash.
"Just chills," she said. "Chills down my body that my daughter would have been sitting in that couch there."
Police say witness accounts confirmed that the cruiser did have its lights and sirens on at the time of the crash.
The causes of both the fire and the crash remain under investigation.