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Boy Killed As Christmas Tree Catches Fire In Elevator

January 2, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A brittle Christmas tree caught fire in an elevator in a housing project Friday, killing one teen-ager and critically injuring two. The Fire Department said at least one victim had been playing with matches.

A man who had decided against boarding the elevator at the fourth floor because the tree took up so much space ″heard a whoosh″ as the tree caught fire on the way down, said Assistant Fire Commissioner John Mulligan.

Elton Harrell, 16, died after becoming trapped in the elevator, said Housing Authority Police Sgt. Rufus Green.

Michael Carter, 14, and Frederick Jacobs, 13, ran from the elevator and were taken to Jacobi Hospital, Carter with burns over his entire body and Jacobs with burns over 70 percent, said Mulligan.

The Fire Department listed the cause of Harrell’s death as ″boy or boys playing with matches,″ Mulligan said.

As Carter and Jacobs ran from the elevator, residents of the housing project in the Bronx tossed blankets from their windows for the boys to try to snuff out the fire, but the terrified boys ran into a courtyard, he said.

″We have two tragic lessons to be learned,″ Mulligan said. ″If you’re clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll. Don’t run.

″The other lesson is that Christmas trees at this time of year are particularly flammable,″ he said. ″The needles we found on the sixth floor indicated the tree was very dried out.″

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