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Yonkers Fire Claims Eighth Victim; Careless Smoking Could be Cause

January 17, 1989

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) _ The death toll rose to eight Monday in the city’s worst fire in 24 years and authorities said a man smoking in bed may have caused the blaze that ravaged a three-story rooming house.

Yonkers Fire Commissioner William McLaughlin said the house originally was a two-family dwelling, which had been illegally converted into a rooming house by its owner, Frank Thomas. It was not immediately known if charges would be filed against Thomas.

McLaughlin said the heaviest fire damage was in the vicinity of a cot used by the smoker, a man who was not identified.

″We’re probably looking at smoking. The victim is reported to be a heavy smoker″ and drinker, McLaughlin said. He said the man was intoxicated the night of the fire.

The eighth person to die from injuries suffered in the Sunday fire was identified as Bernice Mahler. Mrs. Mahler’s husband, Harold, 77, and 45-year- old son, Eugene, died in the fire from burns and smoke inhalation, said Dr. Louis Roh, the deputy medical examiner. He said an autopsy on Mrs. Mahler was scheduled for Tuesday.

The other fire victims were identified as Abraham Wilson, 52, Allen Prioleau, 61, Cynthia Walker, 28, and Keith Isabelle, 30.

Two of the bodies were found inside the front door. Authorities said the men had been unable to open the door because it had been locked from the inside and required a key to open.

Seven people were injured in the blaze. Eleven to 15 people were living in the house, officials said.

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