Apartment fires in Brooklyn, Queens kills elderly couple, 27-year-old man in deadly 45-minute span

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A pair of overnight apartment fires left three New Yorkers dead across a lethal 45-minute stretch, with an elderly couple killed in a Queens blaze early Wednesday shortly after a Brooklyn man died in his apartment from extensive burns, police said.

The first deadly fire killed Shamel Babb, 27, after his mother’s failed attempt to rescue the victim from their burning third-floor home in NYCHAs Brevoort House around 3:45 a.m., said the dead man’s sister — who was staying in an apartment one floor above in the Bedford-Stuyvesant building.

“I can’t imagine how she feels,” Kizzy Ayers said of her mom, dissolving into tears hours after her brother’s death. “She had to leave her son behind to save herself ... It was already too late when I came downstairs ... The smoke was already in the hallway and the staircase.”

Ayers began screaming for her mother, who emerged from the smoke by herself from the downstairs apartment where the family lived for nearly four decades.

“I’m like, ‘Ma, where is Shamel?’” Ayers recounted. “And she’s like, ‘I couldn’t get to him.’ And immediately I almost ran through the smoke. But I couldn’t do it. It was too much. In the end, she was screaming at me like ‘Don’t, Kizzy! No!’”

“If she didn’t wake up (and escape) I don’t know where I would be at this moment,” she added. “I couldn’t afford to lose two people at one time, I couldn’t ... It’s sickening, it hurts so bad.”

Babb suffered from epilepsy, his sister said, and she worries the fire may have triggered seizures, preventing him from escaping on his own.

Neighbor James Richard, 36, wasn’t home when the blaze erupted, but returned to learn of his neighbor’s death. The victim’s body was found once firefighters were able to extinguish the flames, authorities said.

“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “From seeing him in and out, good-spirited person. Always a smile. It’s a messed up situation. He’s always been a respectful kid, a respectful dude.”

The second lethal fire claimed the lives of an 81-year-old man and his 75-year-old wife, with both found unconscious and unresponsive inside their Flushing fourth-floor apartment on 162nd St. near 71st Ave. A family friend identified them as Edgar and Margoth Perez.

The couple died at the scene following the 4:30 a.m. blaze, where the apartment windows were shattered and the outer brick charred by the flames.

“We don’t know what happened,” said resident Martha Nieto, 57, who escaped her basement apartment in pajamas as firefighters evacuated the building in the darkness. “When I came up to the door to come through the hall there was a body there. I had to pass (him) by.”

Nieto, who only moved into the building this past February, said she was awakened by a fireman in the middle of the night after the flames broke out on the higher floor.

“It was so scary,” she recounted. “I said, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘Get out, there’s a fire upstairs.’ Then I just put on my coat and I took my papers and my handbag and I got out ... Thank God I could come out from this.”

The building resident said relatives of the couple lived in the building and one of them spoke briefly about the two victims.

“Really nice people,” said the relative. “We used to care for them.”

Fire marshals are investigating the cause of both blazes.