The College Point community is sending their prayers, condolences and support to the family of an 8-year-old girl who died from smoke inhalation in a tragic house fire that occurred on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Residents in the community were shocked and heartbroken over the loss of the child, Stefanie Villa Torres, who was found unconscious and unresponsive on the third floor of a three-story residential building at 23-26 130th St. in College Point. Torres was rushed to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Torres’ 35-year-old father, Alfonso Villa, and 18-year-old brother, Jefferson Jimenez Villa, who were also in the home, suffered injuries. Both men were taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi in the Bronx, where they are being treated for smoke inhalation symptoms and burns to the body.
Stefanie’s mother, Marilu Perez Torres, was on her way to work when the fire broke out.
The fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery from an e-mobility device, authorities said. According to the FDNY, lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in cellphones, laptops, tablets, electric cars and scooters. Lithium-ion batteries store a large amount of energy and can pose a threat if not treated properly. Like any product, a small number of these batteries are defective. They can overheat, catch fire or explode.
Following the tragedy, Jennifer Shannon, of A Better College Point Civic Association, said that the association’s immediate reaction was to help the family, but to also keep a respectful distance at the time.
“It is absolutely devastating and horrific … there are just no words for something this horrible. It’s a very hard time for the family and while in the process of trying to help, we don’t want to make things uncomfortable for them,” Shannon said.
At this point, there are no plans for a vigil, Shannon added.
A GoFundMe has been launched to help the family pay for Stefanie’s funeral expenses, her father’s medical recovery and rebuilding their home. The organizers’ goal is to raise $30,000. As of Tuesday, Sept. 20, 118 donors have raised $10,220.
“We have known Marilu and her beloved family for many years. Marilu is currently staying in the hospital with Alfonso and Jefferson,” the organizers wrote on the GoFundMe page. “There are no words for what their family has experienced and the long road ahead for them to rebuild their lives. Marilu, Alfonso and Jefferson are so grateful for any help.”
Torres, who was a student at P.S. 14Q in Corona, is also being remembered by Community Education Council District 24.
Connie Altamirano, first vice president of Community Education Council 24 and a liaison of P.S. 14, said the District 24 team and Superintendent Dr. Madelene Chan are supporting the needs of the family and the school community.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the beloved student. During this difficult time, as the school community processes the tragic news and copes with grief, we are here to support the school community and family,” Altamirano said on behalf of CEC 24.
CEC 24 will have a moment of silence during their virtual meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. in remembrance of Torres.
Families who need support regarding the incident can contact Altamirano by phone at 347-777-0841 or via email at [email protected].
The A Better College Point Civic Association can also be reached at [email protected].