An unstable tenant who was being evicted from a Queens home threw gasoline around the kitchen and sparked a fire that killed him, a 6-year-old girl and her 76-year-old grandfather, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The two-alarm fire broke out on the second floor of 23-49 93rd St. in East Elmhurst just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. Firefighters were on the scene within four minutes of the first 911 call, according to the commissioner. In all, about 106 firefighters from 25 FDNY units responded to the deadly blaze.
Nigro had said during a news conference Wednesday that it was "quite unusual" for five people to be trapped in a house fire in the middle of the afternoon. "This was a very tragic day," he added.
The homeowner, who was not in the house at the time, had let David Abreu Nunez, 23, stay in the house when he arrived in New York from the Dominican Republic a few days before the fire, law enforcement officials said. But after learning from neighbors that Nunez was acting erratically, the homeowner asked him to leave, the officials said.
The conflict came to a head Wednesday when Nunez turned violent and set the house on fire, with relatives of the homeowner inside, according to a source. The kitchen was the only point of exit from the second floor, the source said, so the victims had to run through the fire to escape.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, 35, visiting from the Dominican Republic, then ran out of the house with her 10-month-old son, Liam, and yelled that there was a fire, the source said.
Elizabeth and Liam were hospitalized in extremely critical condition with severe burn and smoke injuries, Nigro said. Elizabeth suffered burns over 80 percent of her body and the baby has burns on 98 percent of his body, according to the source.
Elizabeth daughter, Emma Dominguez, 6, was pronounced dead at the scene. Claudio Rodriguez, 76, was removed from the home by firefighters and taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Nunez also was pronounced dead at the scene.
FDNY fire marshals announced on Thursday that the fire was arson.
With Anthony M. DeStefano