Friday, August 11, 2017

The deadly fire in Brooklyn that killed 81-year-old Gertrude Duncan was sparked by an overloaded power strip.


Investigators say a deadly fire in Brooklyn was sparked by an overloaded power strip.

81-year-old Gertrude Duncan was killed when flames tore through the front of her apartment building on Pacific Street in Crown Heights Thursday.

Duncan, who was asleep in the first floor front bedroom when the fire broke out, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her daughter Barbara lived in the back bedroom. She and neighbors tried to rescue the trapped grandmother, but they were not able to get her out.

One tenant suffered second degree burns to her hands, but she is expected to survive.


Thursday, August 10, 2017 05:42PM
CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- As flames tore through a front of a Crown Heights apartment building

An elderly woman has died after flames ripped through an apartment building in Brooklyn.

"It hurts. My mother's gone," said Barbara Wilson, the victim's daughter.

Having to verbalize the harsh and painful loss was just too much for Barbara who lost her sweet mother early Thursday morning.

"Lord have mercy. She burned up," Barbara said.

1:30 a.m. Thursday, flames broke out in the Crown Heights brownstone on the 1300 block of Pacific Street.

One elderly woman asleep in the first floor front bedroom never woke up.

81-year-old Gertrude Duncan was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her daughter Barbara lived in the back bedroom. She and neighbors tried to move heaven and earth to rescue the trapped mother, but the flames would not allow such mercy.

"I tried just to go in the backyard, break the door down and see if my neighbors, if they are okay," said Mher Janian, a witness.

"I try to fight him back for go inside. 'Mister, I want to help my mother, man. I want help her,'" Barbara said.

One tenant suffered second degree burns to her hands, but she is expected to survive. Others escaped with barely their clothes.

"I grabbed my pants and I ran down stairs, then I put my pants out, so everything left inside there," said Preston Godfrey, a victim.

Ms. Duncan, from Jamaica, she had seven children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren and a grateful heart.

"Every day she said to me, 'Thank you, my daughter. Thank you. Thank you.' Every time I did anything for her. She said, 'Thank you for dinner. Thank you for breakfast. Thank you for lunch.' She always thank me," Barbara said.

"It's just horrible, sad, it's just so upsetting, she's a just a sweet elderly lady and I just feel so bad that this happened to her," said Suzanne Mattiello, a witness. "She used to sit outside, you would see her every time, and say, 'Hi mama,' she said, 'It's good to see you,' she's so sweet."


CROWN HEIGHTS — An elderly woman was found dead and another suffered burned hands after an electrical fire tore through a Pacific Street building early Thursday morning, police said.

Firefighters found Gertrude Duncan, 81, on the first floor of 1347 Pacific St., near New York Avenue, when they brought the two-hour blaze under control about 2:30 a.m. after it erupted on the first floor, according to FDNY and NYPD officials.

"My son said, 'There's smoke! There's smoke!' I woke up and tried to get her out. Her door was closed because she liked her privacy. My son grabbed me. Smoke was inside," said Duncan's daughter Barbara Wilson, 65.

Wilson was bereft over her mother's sudden death.

"It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Oh God, it hurts," Wilson said.

The other woman injured in the fire, a 49 year old, was treated at New York-Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center, where she was listed in serious but stable condition, officials said. Her relationship to Duncan wasn't immediately clear.

Duncan was a beloved mother of seven who valued an orderly home, her daughter said.

"She was the greatest mother, the perfect mother," Wilson said.

"She loved cleaning. She loved straightening her place and making it look good. She folded clothes better than me," her daughter added.

Duncan, who immigrated to Brooklyn from Jamaica 30 years ago and has seven children, was a beloved fixture in the neighborhood.

"She was loving everyone, and everyone loved her. She always liked to talk to people and sit outside," Wilson said.

"Not everybody on the block gets along, but she made everyone get along," her daughter added.

Other relatives agreed.

"She was a sweet, kind, giving lady. She helped me grow up. She was a very caring person. She not only took care of her children, but she took care of me as well. It's tough right now," said her nephew Michael Duncan, 53.

"She's gonna be dearly missed on this block. It's just so sad. We all know we have to pass away, but not like this," he added.

The FDNY announced on Thursday afternoon that the cause of the fire was accidental, tweeting that an overloaded power strip caused the flames.

The Medical Examiner will determine how Duncan died, i.e. whether she died from smoke inhalation or burned alive to death.

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — A 56-year-old man was killed in the second fatal Crown Heights fire this week.

Rupert Smith was found unconscious, unresponsive and burned inside a Kingston Avenue apartment late Thursday night, officials said. Four other people were injured in the blaze. They were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The fire was started by someone smoking, fire marshals later determined.

Another fire about a mile away killed a woman early Thursday. Flames broke out around 1:15 a.m. at a home on Pacific Street near New York Avenue.

That fire was deemed accidental electrical and was sparked by an overloaded power strip, FDNY fire marshals said.

An 81-year-old woman was killed in that blaze, officials said. She was later identified by her family as Gertrude Duncan.

Neighbors said everyone on the block affectionately knew Duncan as “mom” or “grandma.”

A second woman suffered burns to her hands in that fire.