Rafelina Moreno was recognized for opening the doorways of her two-story home in Queens to all who had been in want, neighbors and relations mentioned.
On Wednesday afternoon, her home of hospitality changed into one among profound tragedy.
An irate houseguest, whom Ms. Moreno had requested to go away, set a fireplace that swept rapidly by means of the second-floor condo the place members of her household from the Dominican Republic had been staying, the police and hearth officers mentioned. The blaze killed a 6-year-old lady and her grandfather and left the lady’s mom and toddler brother significantly injured.
“We never thought something like this would happen,” Ms. Moreno’s son, Devin Moreno, mentioned on Thursday, as he stood exterior the burned-out residence in East Elmhurst.
The blaze took the lifetime of the person officers imagine began it, 23-year-old David Abreu Nuñez.
The opposite victims had been Ema Dominguez, 6, and Claudino “Claudio” Rodriguez, 76. Ema’s mom, Elizabeth Rodriguez, 35, was anticipated to outlive, however her 10-month-old brother, Lian Dominguez, was nonetheless in extraordinarily vital situation on Thursday afternoon, in response to the police. All of them had been kin of Ms. Moreno who had been visiting from the Dominican Republic.
“It’s a sad afternoon here in East Elmhurst,” Daniel A. Nigro, town’s hearth commissioner, mentioned on Wednesday.
Fireplace officers mentioned that an “ignitable liquid” had been used as an accelerant to start out the hearth. Investigators had been nonetheless conducting assessments to see which liquid was concerned, however two officers conversant in the investigation mentioned a gasoline can was discovered on the premises.
Mr. Nuñez had arrived on the home, at 23-49 93rd Avenue in East Elmhurst, on Monday. He informed Ms. Moreno and her household that he wanted a spot to remain after he had been robbed and assaulted, Mr. Moreno mentioned.
Mr. Nuñez, who was additionally a local of the Dominican Republic, informed the household that he believed he had been attacked as a result of he was homosexual, Mr. Moreno mentioned. Consistent with Ms. Moreno’s views on hospitality, the household welcomed him to remain briefly.
The day earlier than he moved to East Elmhurst, Mr. Nuñez had been arrested within the Bronx, the place he had been dwelling, for submitting a false police report, courtroom data present. A legislation enforcement official acquainted with the case mentioned that Mr. Nuñez had falsely claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Mr. Nuñez’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for remark.
When Ms. Moreno and her household requested their circle of acquaintances about Mr. Nuñez, they realized he could have had psychological well being points. In his brief time on the home, Mr. Nuñez behaved erratically, they mentioned.
“I told my mom, ‘Mami, there’s something weird here,’” one other of Ms. Moreno’s sons, Anthony Moreno, mentioned.
Involved over Mr. Nuñez’s habits, Ms. Moreno requested him to go away, officers mentioned. “He lost his head,” Ms. Moreno’s husband, Raul Moreno, mentioned. “That was the result.”
An individual dwelling on the primary flooring of the constructing referred to as the Fireplace Division at 4:09 p.m. on Wednesday and reported a smoke alarm was going off upstairs, officers mentioned.
By the point firefighters arrived a couple of minutes later, the second flooring was engulfed in flames. Ms. Rodriguez and Lian had made it out, however had been badly burned. The others had been nonetheless inside the house and didn’t survive.
That afternoon, Ms. Rodriguez had opted to remain house with the youngsters and their grandfather so the little lady might splash round in an inflatable pool that the household had bought shortly after she arrived, relations mentioned.
The Rodriguez household had arrived in Queens originally of July and had been planning to remain in the US till the center of August, they mentioned.
It was a visit that Mr. Rodriguez, a retired police officer within the Dominican Republic, made yearly, his household mentioned. “Every time he came to New York, he would explore a new place,” Mr. Moreno mentioned.
Mr. Rodriguez, who preferred ingesting whiskey and enjoying dominoes to calm down, would get up early each morning round Four a.m., typically going grocery searching for the household. He additionally helped his daughter take care of her toddler son and tried to guard the infant even in his final moments.
“He could have stayed in the Dominican Republic,” Mr. Moreno mentioned. “But he came here to take care of the baby, and he died for the baby.”
The journey was a particular one for Ema, a playful and charismatic baby whom Rafelina Moreno doted on like a daughter, relations mentioned.
Although Ema had turned 6 years previous in Could, the household had deliberate to throw her a particular birthday bash on Saturday. The social gathering was to be a “Frozen” themed barbecue. The neighbors had been invited, the cake had been ordered and all the pieces was able to go.
As a substitute of a jubilant celebration, her household, reeling with heartbreak and shock, is raising money for a funeral.
“She was a living angel,” Anthony Moreno mentioned. “And now she’s a real angel.”
Ashley Southall and Ali Watkins contributed reporting.