A mother and daughter seen as inseparable died together when their Huntington Station home caught fire late Thursday night.
Reyna Paris, 64, and Rosemary Martinez, 29, were pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital after firefighters evacuated them from the cluttered second floor of the Fourth Avenue house. Arson investigators found no functioning smoke detectors in the house, police said.
Paris' son Joseph Martinez, 26, escaped, "possibly through a basement window," said Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick. He suffered minor injuries and was treated at Huntington Hospital .
Paris had three other daughters who live elsewhere. She doted on Rosemary Martinez, who friends and relatives said had Down syndrome.
A teary-eyed Ana Paris Corporan remembered the sister three years her junior, who came from the Dominican Republic and lived in Huntington Station for more than 40 years, as a generous person. She was the best friend with whom Paris Corporan spent holidays and birthdays.
"It's been a huge loss for me," she said in Spanish. "She helped me and I helped her . . . I could always count on her."
Paris loved to knit and crochet. She was a regular at the 8:15 a.m. Spanish-language Mass at nearby St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church. In her native country, Paris made it her business to teach several children to read and write, her sister recalled.
"The world lost a beautiful person, a very giving person," said Paris Corporan of Huntington Station.
Suffolk County and Town of Huntington fire marshals as well as arson squad and homicide detectives were looking into the fire's cause Friday.
Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the house had no history of building code violations.
Asked whether the fire was suspicious, Fitzpatrick said: "That's what we're looking at at this point."
Fire officials said more than 100 firefighters from eight departments responded to the 911 call at 11:42 p.m. Thursday. Much of the fire was confined to the basement, they said.
Huntington Manor Fire Department Chief Fred Steenson Jr. said some rooms in the house were nearly impassable, complicating rescue efforts. "There was a lot of clutter in the house," he said.
Officials said Joseph Martinez was on the lawn when firefighters and emergency personnel arrived and learned the women were inside.
"The doors were locked and police were banging on the door," said Wynn Gaylor, 57, a next-door neighbor. "I didn't hear any screaming."
Neighbor Victoria Guadron, 55, whose house is diagonal to the Paris residence, was awakened Thursday night by the commotion and later saw emergency personnel performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on one of the women.
She remembered conversations with Paris in the backyard, where they chatted about life and their children. "She was very compassionate," Guadron said. "We are going to miss her."
Several friends who knew mother and daughter from church gathered half a block from the house and consoled each other with hugs.
María Chiquitucto said she had known Paris as a woman "striving to raise her children on her own," first as a factory worker and then as a retired person looking after her daughter.
"Wherever she was, she was with her daughter," said Chiquitucto, 62. "They went to church and everywhere together and they lost their lives together, and that just broke my heart."
With John Valenti
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Rosemary Martinez's name.