By James DeWeese
Dharvindranaoth “Ba” Seunarine, an airport screener who lived with his wife and two sons on the second floor of the home they shared with relatives and basement tenants, collapsed and died as he searched for his family through a haze of smoke. Relatives said Seunarine, an asthmatic, was on the verge of escaping the fire through a rear window but turned around to look for his wife of 27 years, Parbattie, and youngest son, Ravi, 11.”He loved his children very much,” said cousin Samuel Ramnerine, 33. “That's what happened – he went back to get his wife and small son.”Seunarine's 15-year-old son, Arvatha, almost suffered the same fate as he tried to help his parents and brother escape, said William Fernandez, a building superintendent from across the street who threw up a portable ladder and pulled the teenager from the house.”I leaned half way in (through the window). I heard him coughing really loud,” said Fernandez, 50, whose flashlight barely cut through the intense smoke. “He was going to stay there looking for his mother and father.” After the fire, Arvatha, who friends call Narvin, was too dazed to talk. Surrounded by family, he watched as firefighters picked over the remains of his house.Parbattie Seunarine, 42, a part-time baby-sitter, and Ravi, a student at PS 86, were hospitalized after the fire, which officials said was started by an overloaded power strip in the basement. On Monday, both were in critical but stable condition, a relative said. Two of the three basement tenants, Warren Rubino, 33, and Wladyslaw Gnojski, 48, also died. Fire officials said they simply occupied a space in the home that is zoned for single-family use. Another 44-year-old basement tenant was also injured.Parbattie Seunarine's mother and two siblings, who lived on the first floor of the two-story brick house at 88-28 162nd St., got out of the burning building on their own, fire officials said. Firefighters removed the others – some with Fernandez's portable ladder – under what authorities called extremely difficult circumstances.Deputy Fire Chief Jim DiDomenico said firefighters had to stretch hoses from 200 or 300 feet down the block because garbage and snow obscured the closest hydrant, which was almost directly across the street. They also had to cut through metal bars on the basement windows to gain access. A fire lieutenant fell through the burned-out interior stairs and into the basement, where the 6 a.m. fire began, and three others suffered minor injuries, authorities said.”He's doing fine, but it shakes you up falling through the stairs,” DiDomenico said of the lieutenant, who was being treated at New York's Weill Cornell Medical Center for neck burns. The lieutenant's name was not released.Officials said the fire spread quickly from the basement to the first floor. From there, flames wicked up the interior stairwell and burst through windows to lap at the house's exterior.The fire also severely damaged the attached two-story house next door. John Van Nostrand, a Red Cross emergency coordinator, said more than 30 people were displaced by the fire. The Red Cross temporarily put them up in area hotels with emergency clothing and will help them find new apartments, he said.Neighbors, who said the Seunarines had lived in the area for more than 20 years, were shaken up by the fire.”I really, really feel bad about what happened,” said neighbor, Dorothy Commock, 67, whose grandson Brandon often played with Seunarine's son, Ravi. “When things like this happen, you really have to think how short life is.”The family was waiting to make funeral arrangements until Ba Seunarine's brother arrived from Florida, a relative said.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.