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Boy’s funeral draws crowd of thousands

Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

Thousands of people packed the Blessed Sacrament Church in Jackson Heights Tuesday morning for the funeral of Christopher Miller, the 7-year-old boy who died in a house fire on New Year’s Day.

The crowd was so large there were people kneeling in the aisles during the service.

The Rev. Patrick Burns celebrated the emotional mass, calling the second-grader at PS 148 “a special little boy whose death was tragic.”

Many of Christopher’s classmates and teachers filled the pews and teammates from the Elmjack Little League team that he played on wore baseball jerseys with a memorial patch on the left sleeve.

Christopher was killed when he was trapped by the flames of a fire that gutted the family home, at 30-38 90th St., in East Elmhurst. His brother Matthew, 13, survived and is still recovering from burns at Weill-Cornell Hospital.

The two brothers were sleeping in a second-floor bedroom when two house guests built a fire in a first-floor hearth and left it unattended without a screen, the Fire Department said. Sparks from the fire ignited pillows, blankets and a couch before spreading to Christmas decorations, according to the FDNY.

There were no working smoke alarms in the house, FDNY Deputy Chief Mark Ferran said.

The boy’s father, David Miller, was not home at the time of the fire and their mother Nathalia arrived after the blaze was brought under control, according to Ferran.

Neither parent spoke at the funeral service, and Burns said “Please give the Miller family space.”

The pastor Christopher’s brother Matthew was doing well at the hospital.

A Facebook fund-raising page has been established called “Family Miller” and it has already raised nearly $40,000.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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