Photo by Naeisha Rose
Firefighters respond to a three-alarm fire in Queens Village Sunday.
By Naeisha Rose

What started as a quiet Sunday afternoon in Queens Village became deadly after a three-alarm fire in the southeastern part of the borough took the lives of a family of five in a frame house located at 112-16 208 St. Four children were among the victims

Neighbors saw smoke around 2:30 p.m. and at 2:36 p.m. a bystander called 911. The FDNY rushed to the scene and was joined by the NYPD, Con Edison workers, American Red Cross responders and the medical examiner. Stunned neighbors gathered outside the fire-ravaged home along with elected officials.

The five victims removed from the home were: Chayce Lipford, 2; Rashawn Matthews, 10; Jada Foxworth, 16; Melody Edwards, 17; and Destiny Dones, 20, the NYPD said.

Fire marshals were at the scene investigating the cause of the blaze, which the FDNY said started at 112-16 208th St. and then spread to 112-12 and 112-18.

“A bystander in a white shirt gave his phone to the grandfather in the brown pants who tried to go back into the house, but the grandfather fell back after the house blew up,” said Maude Rennie, who was at her aunt’s house with her cousin at a backyard christening for a new arrival in her family.

The grandfather yelled at a man in an orange shirt who jumped out of the window and he “asked why weren’t you watching them before he got sick and vomited,” Rennie said.

The man in orange “was screaming that I got to call my wife and had a slight burn on his hand,” she said. “He said that there were two kids on the second floor and he was arrested after trying to go back in.”

The man who jumped out of the window was sent to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and was expected to survive, police said.

Rennie’s cousin, who asked not to be identified, said a Jeep exploded in the driveway after a wire snapped because of the fire and hit the car.

“It was like a mushroom cloud of smoke. It was big and growing in the air. It looked like a tornado with bits and pieces of debris was flying in the air,” she said.

Near the burned-down house was state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (Cambria Heights), who consoled relatives and neighbors.

Gina Bailey Briggs, a close family friend, arrived at the scene after 6 p.m. and was distraught. As she screamed, “Why, God, did this happen to them?” several times, Comrie held her in his arms, trying to comfort her as tearful neighbors spoke with Vanel.

FDNY EMS Lieutenant Paul Yunek also hugged Briggs.

Neighbors later brought her away from the scene so that she could catch her breath.

“It was horrible. We were helpless, we couldn’t do anything, but the FDNY did an awesome job because this was crazy,” Rennie’s cousin said.

Last Thursday a fire in an apartment house on Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood killed Firefighter William Tolley, who died after falling off the roof of the building.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4573.


Dones, Destiny

20-year-old female

Edwards, Melody

17-year-old female

Foxworth, Jada

16-year-old female

Matthews, Rashawn

10-year-old male

Lipford, Chayce

2-year-old male

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