Photo by Naeisha Rose
The sister of one of the five young victims killed in a fast-moving house fire in Queens Village takes comfort in arms of State Sen. Leroy Comrie.
By Naeisha Rose

Funeral arrangements have been made for four family members who perished in a fast-moving Queens Village house fire Sunday that gutted the frame house at 112-16 208 St. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 20.

The members of the family who will be laid to rest May 6 at New Greater Bethel Ministries on Jamaica Avenue from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. are Chayce Lipford, 2; Rashawn Matthews, 10; Jada Foxworth, 16; and Destiny Dones, 20. A reception will be held immediately afterwards from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A separate service will be conducted for Melody Edwards, 17, who also died in the fire. She was on the volleyball team at Queens High School of Teaching and Liberal Arts and had plans to become a lawyer after graduating finishing her final year this summer, according to her mother, Rozetta Edwards. She planned to attend SUNY Purchase.

Neighbors saw smoke around 2:30 p.m., and at 2:36 p.m. a passing motorist, Zedias Mudzimba, 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.

Near the site, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (Cambria Heights) consoled relatives and neighbors.

Sheener Bailey Briggs, the sister of the homeowner, arrived at the scene after 6 p.m. and was distraught. As she screamed in despair, Comrie held her in his arms, trying to comfort her as tearful neighbors spoke with Vanel.

The cause of the fire was still not known.

The house belonged to Dajuana Green, who was not home when the house caught fire because she left to buy a smoke detector, the New York Times reported. She is the mother of Rashawn Matthews, also the son of Maurice Matthews, 46, who escaped the fire by jumping out the second-floor window. He was later brought to New York Hospital Center and is considered to be in “satisfactory condition.”

Green’s Facebook page is filled with memories of the people she lost. The pictures captured moments of Rayshawn holding school awards, on vacation with the family, and in one photo, playing with his nephew and Green’s grandson, Chayce, the youngest victim of the fire.

Chayce had just turned 2 last month. His birthday party was “Paw Patrol”-themed, complete with a three-tier cartoon cake with his name and life-sized versions of the shows cast.

Green is also the aunt of Melody, Jada and Destiny, according to a GoFundMe page that was set up to help her rebuild her house. Over $9700 of the $50,000 goal had been raised by press time.

Maude Rennie, who was at her aunt’s house with her cousin at a backyard christening, witnessed Matthews’ jump.

“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,” Rennie said. The grandfather became sick and vomited during the ordeal. Matthews “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.”

After digging through the rubble, fire marshals were able to determine that there were no working smoke detectors in the house. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro gave brief updates via Twitter.

“It’s a very, very sad day for the people of our city when five promising young lives are taken from us,” read one tweet.

Around this time last year, Commissioner Nigro released a statement on the NYC.gov page for the FDNY about smoke detectors, and fires that occurred in 2015.

“More than 80 percent of fire deaths occurred in private homes or apartments where there was no working smoke alarm present.”

The day after the tragedy, firefighters gathered near the site and passed out information about fire safety.

Comrie would later send out a press release addressing the issue.

“In the coming weeks and months, my office will work with the FDNY and other emergency response agencies and local civic organizations in order to disseminate fire safety information and resources to community members.”

Investigators are continuing to look for clues to what sparked the fast-moving fire.

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

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