Mother Gives Her Own Life Trying to Rescue Friends and Relatives From Buring New York Home

A mother gave her own life yesterday trying to save friends and relatives trapped by a Bronx arson fire that also killed her daughter.


December 31, 2003 -- A mother gave her own life yesterday trying to save friends and relatives trapped by a Bronx arson fire that also killed her daughter.

Six people, including a toddler, were hurt.

A firetruck racing to the blaze with lights and sirens crashed into a minivan, triggering a chain-reaction collision that injured 10.

The blaze broke out on a stairwell leading to the top floor of a two-story home at 1437 Glover St. in Parkchester.

The two dead women, Brenda Casanova, 41, and Maria Cruz, 20, lived on the top floor of the house, which was shaken by an explosion at 6:48 a.m.

Cruz' husband is in the military and is stationed in Iraq, a neighbor said.

Casanova could have escaped, but "decided to go to the back room, unlock the door and save her family," said Robert Simms, her roommate.

"She saved her grandson, son and daughter. Unfortunately, her other daughter didn't make it."

Simms, 21, and his girlfriend jumped out a window to safety. The victim "could have jumped, too, but she didn't," he said.

"She sacrificed her life to save her family and save us. She's a hero."

Casanova's mother called the fire "a terrible tragedy."

"We're in a lot of pain," she said.

Cops saw a 15-year-old boy running away from the house with burns on his hands and face, law-enforcement sources said.

He was questioned at Jacobi Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries, but not arrested.

Fire marshals determined that an accelerant, like gasoline, spread the blaze, an FDNY spokesman said.

The marshals were already investigating an incident at the home on Thanksgiving in which an accelerant was poured on the stairs, he said.

Of the six injured, five suffered smoke inhalation and one a broken leg. Casanova's son Carlos, 17, and a 2-year-old boy were in critical condition at Jacobi Hospital with smoke inhalation, sources said.

The fire was under control in 45 minutes.

One of the 25 trucks that responded crashed into a Plymouth minivan at the intersection of Westchester Avenue and White Plains Road. The minivan then crashed into a light pole, struck a man and woman, both 76, crossing the street and hit a Ford Taurus.

The Taurus' driver, Iven Cameron, 56, of The Bronx, said the elderly man and woman were sent flying onto his windshield.

"The van had the green light, but the firetruck had his sirens blazing. The van just didn't stop," he said.

The woman was hospitalized with cuts and bruises and the man with a possible fracture.

Two people in the van were hospitalized with neck and back pain. Six firefighters suffered minor injuries.