By Christina Santucci
A doting 50-year-old Trinidadian grandmother died in an early morning blaze in South Jamaica Wednesday, a spokesman for the Fire Department and her neighbors said.
Neighbor Latanya Dawson, 32, said she saw flames shooting out one of three second-floor windows of the home on 102nd Avenue near the Van Wyck Expressway and firefighters were running up an outstretched ladder and into the burning house.
“By the time I heard the commotion, the Fire Department was doing what they do best,” she said as she and several other residents of the block watched members of the NYPD’s Crime Scene Unit investigate later that morning. “They went in with the flames.”
About 60 members of New York’s Bravest responded to battle the blaze at about 5:30 a.m., the FDNY spokesman said.
Fire officials said one person was killed in the fire and one firefighter sustained minor injuries. At about 10:30 a.m., members of the city medical examiner’s office removed a body from the house.
Several neighbors identified the woman killed as Josephine Humphrey, who worked at a realty office in Richmond Hill and was a native of Trinidad. She lived alone on the second floor of the home but was well-known to the neighborhood kids for handing out toys, key chains and other knickknacks, said 49-year-old Freedom Elbey, who lives across the street.
“Whatever she had, she brought to the kids,” he said.
Humphrey had two daughters, one in Far Rockaway and the other living in Trinidad, as well as two granddaughters, neighbors said. Her daughter in Queens was about to give birth to Humphrey’s third grandchild, fellow block residents said.
“She always talked about them as if she saw them everyday,” said Jelease Elbey, 32. “She was a wishful thinker.”
Dawson said she didn’t believe Humphrey had traveled to Trinidad in the two or three years that she lived on the street.
“She had an abundance of manners,” Dawson said.
Described by neighbors as friendly, Humphrey was also well-dressed, sporting dresses with her hair fixed nicely, they said.
“She never wore sneakers,” Jelease Elbey said. “She was always presentable.”
Freedom Elbey said he had awakened in the middle of the night to a smell of burning rubber and checked outlets around his house before going back to sleep. He was later woken up by a relative who had heard emergency responders outside.
“If it isn’t electrical, then she could have fallen asleep with one of these,” he speculated, holding up his cigarette.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4589.