Child, 5, dies in blaze at Corona apartment

By Jeremy Walsh

Police arrested the boy's brother, 24-year-old Diego Guallpa, later that evening on charges of child endangerment. He was issued a desk appearance ticket and released, the Queens district attorney's office said. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail, the DA's office said.The boy, Jason Guallpa, was found wedged between the wall and a television set in a bedroom adjacent to the source of the fire, officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Fire officials would not specify how Jason was playing with fire, but said it originated in the kitchen. Jason died from smoke inhalation, the medical examiner's office said.”Mi hijo!” cried Jason's mother, who was not home at the time of the fire. “Where is my son? Where is my husband?”She was whisked into an ambulance moments after arriving at the scene, before she could give her name.The family of Ecuadorian immigrants is now struggling to pay for funeral expenses and replace personal goods lost in the fire, said Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), who announced he had set up a fund for the family at Citibank. Donors can deposit checks made out to Jose's mother, Elvia Guazhco, at account No. 9962150115, or mail them to Peralta's office at 82-11 37th Ave., Suite 705, Jackson Heights, NY 11372.The fire was reported at 10:21 a.m. in the 20-by-60-foot mixed-use building at 35-58 98th St. and soon swelled to two alarms, Assistant Fire Chief John Acerno said.Corona resident Michael Mares, 17, witnessed the fire break out. He said flames began to leap from the first-story window and soon climbed up the entire wall. He said a man on the second floor began yelling for his family.Two residents rescued from the second floor were taken to Elmhurst Hospital with moderate injuries, including smoke inhalation and chest pains, FDNY officials said. Three firefighters were taken to New York Hospital Queens with minor injuries.A woman who identified herself as Jason's aunt said Jason's mother and father both work during the day. She said Jason's brother Diego watched him on weekdays, but Acerno said Jason had evidently been locked in the apartment alone.Firefighters had to break the door down to gain entry, Acerno said. It was unclear if Jason had tried to escape, but the apartment window was covered by iron anti-theft bars.Acerno said Jason may have thought he could hide from the flames.”Sometimes children in a fire will try to hide in a corner, a toy box or a closet,” he said.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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