Four die in suspicious Richmond Hill Fire

Arson is now suspected in an early morning fire in Richmond Hill that quickly engulfed a two-story house Monday, killing three children and their father.Around 2:30 a.m. a quiet 108th street transformed into a raging inferno. Concerned neighbors jumped out of bed, their sound sleep shattered as glass shattered and an explosion erupted outside. The smell of smoke filled the air as it drifted upwards blocking the clear night sky.
"I woke up around 2:20 a.m. when I heard glass shattering outside. I thought someone was breaking into my car but when I got outside I smelled smoke," Odie Rodriguez, of 91st Ave. said. "I ran around the corner to see what was happening. The fire wasn’t really that big yet. But within a matter of five minutes it had spread through the whole house. I could feel the heat from across the street."
Firefighters arrived at the house at 87-76 108th Street at 2:29 a.m., responding within six minutes of the initial call. But the blaze quickly became out of control. Hardio Etwaroo, 39, a Guyanese native who lived in the house with his family for the past five years escaped the flames but suffered burns over 100 percent of his body. According to neighbors, even with his injuries, Etwaroo desperately tried to get back in the house to save his three children. Etwaroo made several attempts using a neighbor’s ladder to reach his children. He proceeded to prop the ladder against the front of the house so he could climb to the second floor roof. As he stood on the roof trying to gain entry through a window a large explosion blasted it out. Sharp pieces of shattering glass hit him, as the heat burned him even more. His attempts came too late. His daughter, Phelicia, 14 and her brothers Alexander, 8 and Anthony, 4 were killed in the fire. The two boys were found curled up beneath a mattress in the rear bedroom, their sister was found close by. Etwaroo died Monday in the burn unit of New York Weill Cornell Hospital Center. His wife escaped with minor injuries after she jumped from a second floor window to safety. She is now recovering from an ankle injury at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Hemchand Nerain, Etwaroo’s brother-in-law who was visiting the family received minor burns on his arms. He escaped by jumping through the second-story front window that leads out onto the roof.
Officials have reported that gasoline may have been poured down the staircase leading to the second floor.
Out of the 121 firefighters that battled the blaze, nine were treated for minor injuries at Jamaica Hospital and released.
The investigation continues as the charred house remains, its scorched frame left behind as a remnant of the nightmare that took place within this shocked community.