FOUR DIED IN 69th STREET BLAZE
By Conor Greene
An enraged woman who poured carpet cleaner on her boyfriend before lighting him on fire has been charged in connection with the fatal Father’s Day fire in Middle Village that killed four people.
Agnes Bermudez, 48, of Newburgh has been arrested on charges including second-degree murder, arson, assault and reckless endangerment for starting the June 15 fire in an apartment building at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and 69th Street. She has been hospitalized since the fire and was arraigned last Friday from her hospital bed at Jacobi Medical Center.
Police say the fire began in the early morning after Bermudez confronted her boyfriend, William Salazar, 31, in his second floor apartment at 66-76 69th Street after he returned home from a night out. She allegeldy doused him in carpet cleaner and set him ablaze, igniting herself in the process.
The fast-moving fire spread to the top floor of the three-story building, where Flor Sandoval, 48, lived with her husband, Heriberto Garcia-Vera, 68, and their twenty-year-old son, Felipe Garcia. All three died as a result of the fire, as well as Salazar, who passed away four days later.
Three other residents suffered various injuries in attempting to escape the fire, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. One victim suffered second-degree burns to nearly ten percent of his body, as well as a fractured ankle after jumping from a third-floor window. A second victim suffered back and leg injuries and the third suffered a fractured wrist.
Although critically injured in the fire and engulfed in flames, Salazar and Bermudez were able to get outside the burning building. They ran inside Z-Star Deli, located on the building’s ground floor, where owner Mohammed Al-Matari doused the flames using jugs of water from his store.
“The two people from the apartment upstairs came into the store. They were on fire – their hair and their clothes,” said Al-Matari shortly after the fire. “We got them outside of the store and started to pour cold water on them. It was the only thing I could think to do.”
Bermudez, who faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges, was ordered held without bail and is due back in court on January 7. Salazar’s father, Rene Salazar, told the Daily News that Bermudez “loved my son too much… She lost control.”
“The defendant is accused of turning a quiet summer morning into a terrifying ordeal for the residents of a Queens apartment building when, with a total disregard for human life, she is alleged to have intentionally started a fire in the occupied building by pouring a flammable liquid on her boyfriend,” said Brown.
“In the wake of the fast moving fire, four people lost their lives, four others – including the defendant – were injured, and others were left homeless and emotionally traumatized by the experience.”
Sandoval, a native of Columbia, was known in the movie industry as a makeup artist who worked on the Oscar-nominated film “Maria Full of Grace.”