Thanksgiving tragedy: Bronx man and daughter killed in fire despite efforts to save them

Emma Seiwell/New York Daily News/TNS

A Bronx man and his autistic daughter died in a Thanksgiving Day blaze despite his other daughter’s desperate attempt to get past thick smoke and a locked door to rescue them, neighbors and officials said.

Rosanna Suarez, 42, couldn’t save her stepfather, Perfecto Aramboles, 60, or her stepsister, Odalys Aramboles, 20, from the early-morning kitchen fire that broke out in the family’s second-floor apartment on Harrison Ave. near W. Tremont Ave. in Morris Heights around 5:30 a.m., officials said.

Suarez’s brave rescue attempt left her hospitalized in critical condition along with Aramboles’ wife, Lorenza Suarez, 63.

Lorenza Suarez had been planning to host Thanksgiving in the apartment where her family was killed.

“She was planning to cook today at her house and invite her daughter who lives outside of the house and other family, but this happened,” said her niece, Sue. “She loves cooking, she loves hosting. She loves making people feel good. It’s just sad.”

Rosanna and Lorenza Suarez remained hospitalized Thursday night.

“There still is toxicity in their blood, they’re running their labs every so often just to make sure that it eventually leaves their bodies, but it’s gonna be a process,” said Rosario. “So that’s why they’re still intubated.”

Neighbors said Suarez’s screams and cries for help could be heard throughout the five-story apartment building.

Resident Manuel Jimenez, 50, said he ran down from his fourth-floor apartment when he heard the screams. He saw Suarez trying to get back into the smoky, fiery apartment.

“She said, ‘My mother, my sister, my father’s in there! They’re sleeping! And my door’s locked,’” Jimenez said. “The daughter tried to go in there. I grabbed her and I said, ‘You can’t. Don’t go.’ She was crying and screaming. I would’ve done the same. I tried to do the best I could. I think she went back in.”

Jimenez said he was up early cooking when he smelled the smoke.

“I was putting a roast pork in the oven,” Jimenez said. “I put it in the oven and I started saying, ' Is this the smell of the roast pork?’ I smelled something like a fire.

“So when I opened my door, I saw the hallway full of smoke. So I locked it. The smoke was coming under the door. My apartment was getting smoky. My apartment had so much smoke. I put wet towels on the floor.”

Jimenez said he started screaming to wake the building’s other residents.

“They’re my neighbors,” he said. “I’m sad. It’s Thanksgiving. We shouldn’t have to go through this. I mean no one — and I feel real bad.”

Perfecto had spinal issues and was disabled, Rosario told the Daily News.

Jimenez said he has fond memories of the family, adding that the father who died used a cane and walked with a limp.

“I call him Dad, and I call the mom, Mom,” he said. “They’re beautiful people. They don’t bother nobody. They stay to themselves. The mother always takes her daughter to school. I can’t believe it. It’s sad.”

Officials said the fire did not appear to be suspicious.

“That’s my aunt and her daughter,” said relative Sue Rosario, one of several relatives who came to gather the family’s belongings. “It’s terrible. We just came to see upstairs and figure out what happened.”

The blaze completely destroyed the apartment.

Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez, who represents the neighborhood, said residents of the five-story building had a lot of heat and hot water complaints.

“It’s just a terrible tragedy,” she said. “Everyone in this building knows each other, and so there were a lot of tears shed in learning about this tragedy.”

A complaint for no heat building-wide was filed with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development on Monday, city records show.

“There’s very, very little that we can say but to be there for them to let them know that we have their backs,” Sanchez said.