Elderly couple die in fire at luxury Midtown East high-rise

MIDTOWN EAST, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two people are dead after a luxury high-rise on Manhattan's east side went up in flames.

Flames could be seen shooting out of the ninth floor of the 27-story River House on East 52nd Street near FDR Drive after the fire broke out around 5:15 a.m. Saturday.

Responding firefighters found Mary Merow, 85, unconscious and unresponsive with severe burns. She was pronounced dead at the scene. John Merow, 89, was rushed to Cornell Medical Center where he was also pronounced dead.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

John Merow was the former chairman of a law firm that represented the Astor family. Neighbors were stunned to learn that he and his wife passed away.

"I could not believe it. I could not believe it was Mr. Merow who passed away in that awful fire. It was just like a nightmare to think he has to go through that," said neighbor Rose Kusack-McLellan.

The apartment had 10 to 12 rooms, one reason why the fire was especially difficult to contain.

"You have a fire on the upper floor and a building off the river, and the windows are already out, so you have plenty of wind and air adding fuel to the fire," said FDNY Deputy Chief James Coyne.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The River House is an Art Deco-style cooperative that's home to the exclusive River Club. Building residents have included Henry Kissinger and Uma Thurman, and the average price for a condo is $11 million, according to real estate database Street Easy.

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