LATEST PAPER
75° Good Afternoon
75° Good Afternoon
News

Queens fire victims identified, remembered by friends, neighbors

Clockwise from top left, Chayce Lipford, 2; Rashawn

Clockwise from top left, Chayce Lipford, 2; Rashawn Matthews, 10; Destiny Dones, 20; Jada Foxworth, 16; and Melody Edwards, 17. Photo Credit: Lauren Green via Facebook

As flames engulfed a Queens home where five people died on Sunday, neighbors called out to the children trapped in the attic telling them to jump.

“I was yelling for the kids, ‘Are you in there?’ ” Benjamin Gordon, 45, said.

Carletta Cantres, 47, who lives a few houses down, called to the children, asking if they could jump, but they didn’t answer her, she said, adding that it looked like they could have been pinned against the window.

“We didn’t hear nothing,” Gordon said. “By the time I got to the front of the house there was no movement in the window.”

The victims were identified by police as 2-year-old Chayce Lipford, 10-year-old Rashawn Matthews, 16-year-old Jada Foxworth, 17-year-old Melody Edwards and 20-year-old Destiny Dones.

White balloons were tethered to a fence and white and yellow flowers were placed outside the two-story home on 208th Street Monday, where relatives and friends of the victims came by to pay their respects.

Melody Edwards was visiting her best friend, Foxworth, when the fire consumed the house, according to Melody's uncle William Garrett, 65.

"She had just come over a couple of hours before to do her homework," said Garrett, adding that Melody lives with her mother and siblings in St. Albans.

Edwards' father stopped by the house on Monday afternoon, holding a towel to his face as he started to cry.

"She is a brilliant girl at school," said Glenford Edwards, 62. His daughter was awarded a scholarship to the University at Albany and dreamed of being a lawyer. He would call her "my lawyer daughter," he said.

"She was smart, she always put me in check," he said, noting that she would often correct his grammar. 

Glenford said he was in church when he learned the news of his daughter's death. Melody's mother called him to tell him that she had seen what had happened on television in the news.

"I want to know. I have to know. I want to know what happened," Glenford said. "I lost my baby. That's my gift. That's a gift from me -- that little girl."

Natasha Khan, 15, said she was a friend of Foxworth and they were on the same cheer team at the Young Women’s Leadership School.

“It’s so hard, I didn’t expect this,” Khan said, speaking through heavy tears. “It’s devastating. I had to come.”

Foxworth had just returned from a nationals competition in Florida, Khan said.

“She was a good person,” she said, recalling her friend’s love for cheerleading: “That was her life, she was dedicated to it. Half of my school is devastated, the whole cheer team.”

“I’ve only known her for a year but it feels like we were so close,” she said.

The only survivor of the fire was 46-year-old Maurice Matthews, who escaped the blaze by falling out of the second-floor window and onto the roof of the home’s porch, a law enforcement official said. He is the father of Rashawn Matthews and the grandfather of Chayce Lipford, according to the official.

Lauren Green, who identified herself as Rashawn Matthews’ sister and Lipford’s aunt, said Foxworth and Dones were her cousins and Edwards was a friend of the family.

“I’m Just So Lost For Words Right Now,” Green wrote on her Facebook page with a photo of the victims. “I’m Gonna Miss Each && Last One Of Yall So Much.”

Gordon said he was coming home from church when he saw Matthews on the roof.

“He was running back and forth on the roof,” he said, adding that he was yelling, “Help, help, help, help.”

Matthews finally jumped down from the roof, Gordon said, but it was too late to save any of the others.

Firefighters pulled Lipford and one of the other victims from the attic, but neither made it, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Sunday. Dones and Rashawn were pronounced dead at the scene, while the others were pronounced dead at area hospitals.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation on Monday, the FDNY said.

Flames were able to spread very quickly through the wood-frame house, which was built in roughly 1920, Nigro said Monday.

"We knew that the firefighters on the scene did everything they could and more to save these children. It was a very, very sad day for the people of our city when five young lives are taken from us, five promising lives, on the course of a quiet Sunday afternoon. They will find out what started the fire," he said.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos