Basement Where Three Died in Fire Was Home to 14 Cabdrivers
Jan. 08, 1985
NEW YORK (AP) _ A cramped basement that served as home for 14 Haitian cabdrivers turned into a death chamber when a fire killed three of the men and four others overcome by smoke were ''brought back to life'' by emergency workers, authorities said.
''There were bodies everywhere and they were all unconscious,'' said Firefighter Glenn Clapp, who helped rescue the injured.
Two of the four men overcome in the Monday morning blaze remained in critical condition today. The status of the other two was upgraded from critical to stable.
Seven other men escaped unharmed via a rear stairway when the fire broke out in the basement ceiling at 2 a.m. Monday, said Deputy Fire Commissioner John Mulligan.
There were no smoke detectors in the basement of the two-story brick apartment building, although about 14 men, all Haitians working as gypsy cab drivers, were living there, investigators said. A building with more than two dwellings is required to have smoke detectors.
The cellar contained two small bedrooms that had been divided into 12 cubicles, which measured 4-by-10 feet and had doors with locks, fire officials said.
The fire may have been caused by faulty electrical wiring, Mulligan said.
Two violations were issued for the building following the blaze, said Buildings Department spokesman Vahe Tiryakian. One alleged illegal occupancy of the basement and the other charged erecting petitions without filing plans.
There were eight outstanding violations against the building, including a 1977 violation notice for failure to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the basement, said Charles Perkins, a spokesman for the city housing department.
Asked why the landlord had not been brought to court over the violation, Perkins said: ''We are reluctant to begin court action against illegal living arrangements because we don't want to throw people out on the streets. We don't want to create more homeless.''
The dead men all suffered from cardiac and respiratory arrest produced by smoke inhalation, said Lou Cafiero, spokesman for the Emergency Medical Service. Mulligan identified them as Goto Meristil, 28; Yves Noel, 29; and Moreau Polynice, in his 20s.
Firefighters and paramedics saved four other men with only seconds to spare, Cafiero said. ''For all intents and purposes these people were dead,'' he said.
Emanuel Louis, 27, and Adolph Meristil, 30, were taken to the Jacobi Hospital burn unit and were in critical but stable condition today.
David Gireau, 30, and Roosevelt LaGuerre, in his 30s, remained in critical condition today at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.
Six firefighters also suffered minor injuries, Mulligan said.