Willy Fernandez yesterday saved Narvin Seunarine from this home, which was left in ruins.
Photo credit: G.N. Miller/New York Post
January 31, 2005 -- A father who had escaped a raging blaze in his Queens home perished after heroically rushing back inside in a desperate bid to save his wife and 11-year-old son yesterday.
Two other tenants also died in the inferno, which erupted at 6:18 a.m. at 88-28 162nd St. in Jamaica.
The wife and son of tragic dad Ba Seunarine, 44, were critically injured, as was another tenant.
Seunarine's other son, Narvin, 15, managed to escape the fire - but only after a neighbor rushed over to the two-story home with a ladder and pulled him out of the family's second-floor apartment.
Narvin - clearly distraught, with his head down - later said he went to the ladder only after trying and failing to rescue his younger brother.
"I tried to pick up my brother from the floor, but I couldn't pick him up," the stricken teen said.
"Then the smoke came, and I couldn't see anything."
Willy Fernandez, 50, recalled how the teen at first refused to go down his ladder because "he wanted to rescue his family.
"Finally, I tried to pull him, and he jumped and fell down the ladder," said Fernandez, the super of a building across the street.
Witnesses said that when the fire first broke out, Narvin's dad, a Kennedy Airport security guard who emigrated from Guyana two decades ago, managed to flee the two-family house.
But after devoted family man realized that his wife, Parbattie, 42, and younger son, Divinrdanauth, 11, hadn't made it out with Narvin and were still trapped inside, he immediately raced back in.
"He was on the street, but he went back in to get his wife and smaller son when he realized they hadn't gotten out," said a grief-stricken relative, Vijay Barbhidial.
"He loved his wife. He loved his kids. He was devoted to his family."
The father succumbed to the flames and smoke. His wife and son remained in hyperbaric chambers at New York Hospital in Manhattan.
The two other tenants who died in the fire were Wlavyslaw Gnojski, 48, and Warren Rubino, 33, both of whom lived in the basement.
A third man who also lived in the basement - which had been carved into two tiny apartments - was Angel Marquez, 43.
Critically injured, he remained in the burn unit of Staten Island University Hospital. In addition, eight firefighters suffered minor injuries.
In a chilling reminder of the Black Sunday blaze in The Bronx that killed two firefighters last week, a fire lieutenant fell into the flames yesterday when a staircase collapsed.
He was quickly rescued and was not seriously hurt.
Firefighters said the blaze began in the basement and quickly spread to the first and second floors via the stairs.
The entrance was ablaze, but Shirley Ranglall, the building's owner, managed to escape from the rear on the first floor with her son and daughter.
Firefighters said the blaze was not suspicious, and relatives of the victims said it appeared to have been caused by a space heater.
Firemen said they failed to see a hydrant across the street because it was covered with garbage bags and were forced to use another hydrant down the block. But they said that caused only a minor delay.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Black Sunday, a union leader called ex-Commissioner Thomas Von Essen a "scumbag" for questioning the decisions of battalion chiefs at the blaze and for suggesting the FDNY would not be able to carry out its own investigation.
"For Von Essen to question the decisions of my chiefs is disgraceful and without merit, but Von Essen never let the facts get in the way of his personal statements," said Capt. Peter Gorman, president of the 2,450 member Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
"The fact is that he and he alone recalled our personal ropes for monetary issues only.
"He said rather than looking at ropes, we should be looking at the actions of the chief officers. Why do they have firefighters up there?
"No one has the right to question their integrity. There were reports of people trapped on the floor above." Gorman was responding to Von Essen's comments in an interview broadcast earlier in the day on WNBC/Channel 4's "News Forum"
Von Essen had said, "I don't think they're really capable of doing their own investigation. I think they should have outsiders investigate these things because the chiefs are the ones who investigate them and the chiefs would have to criticize their own in order to do a legitimate investigation."
In the wake of that blaze, in which the two firemen jumped to their deaths when faced with raging flames, the union is demanding that the FDNY issue personal safety ropes to the city's 11,000 firefighters.
The department eliminated the ropes in 2000, saying they were bulky and hard to maintain.