Married couple killed, several hurt in apartment building fire in Washington Heights

ByPhil Taitt WABC logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Married couple killed in Washington Heights apartment fire
Sonia Rincon has the latest from Washington Heights.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS (WABC) -- A married couple was killed in Washington Heights after a fire broke out in an apartment building early Tuesday morning.

The blaze happened in a sixth-floor apartment around 1:45 a.m. on West 178th Street, near the base of the George Washington Bridge.

A 76-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man were taken to Harlem Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Family friend Ines Cabrera says what happened to them was terrible and tragic. She said the woman was disabled and used a wheelchair and probably couldn't escape.

They were later identified as Luciano and Maria Taveras and were described by neighbors and loved ones as a sweet couple who was always kind to the building community an to each other.

Six other people were injured, including three firefighters and three civilians.

Neighbors ran through the building and knocked on each other's doors to wake other residents up and help get each other out.

Firefighters also faced challenges due to clutter.

"People amass things over time, over years and when you get into a fire condition, it feeds the fire. Moving around, knocks things down, moves things around (so) it makes it a little more difficult to search fire areas. Like I said, we found the first victim in the front room, and the male victim in the back of the apartment," Malcolm Moore, FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief, said.

The Department of Buildings issued a full vacate order for all 42 apartments in the building and will reevaluate after an inspection.

The Red Cross is on the ground assisting residents at a nearby church. It is still unclear how many people were displaced and what their next steps are.

"We have our team sitting down with each resident and talking through recovery needs and trying to help figure out how they can start the road to recovery," said Frederic Klein with the Red Cross.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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