A disabled man died and his son was burned in a Commack house blaze Friday as rescuers, from a fire marshal to a nearby workman, were thwarted by intense heat, authorities said.
Timothy Donolli, 48, was upstairs bathing his father, Louis, 78, when he smelled smoke shortly before 1:30 p.m. He went downstairs, where he spotted smoke and flames coming from behind the computer area, said Suffolk County homicide Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky.
Donolli tried to put out the fire, but it was too late, Pelkofsky said: "When he came back, the fire was out of control."
He tried to go back upstairs to bring his father out, but that too proved futile, police said.
Michael Magner, 49, of Huntington, who was working on a neighboring house, pulled out Timothy Donolli, police said.
"Timothy was burned," the lieutenant said. "He was screaming, 'My father is in there, do you have a ladder?' They got a ladder from the house. It was too short."
Magner rushed to the house where he had been working and got a longer ladder but the heat was too intense.
Commack fire chief Kieran Keane said a suited-up fire marshal jumped into the house through a window, but jumped right back out.
"His gear almost caught fire," he said. The stairs to the second floor were rubble when firefighters got in, the chief said.
Louis Donolli was pronounced dead in his bedroom, authorities said.
His wife was not home at the time and their son was taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, police said.
The cause of the fire is being investigated but is not deemed suspicious, police said. Two firefighters were treated for exhaustion at the scene.
Neighbors said the family was private and had lived there for more than three decades. Before he was disabled a few years ago, neighbors often saw the father meticulously tending his front garden of bushes and flowers, some from overseas.
Timothy Donolli had a lucrative job in California's film industry but returned home to his sick father a few years ago, said Kenny Fogerty, owner of Apex Landscaping, which took care of the family's lawn.
He did everything for his father, Fogerty said, but in the end, he could not save his father's life.
"He kind of gave up work to take care of his father," Fogerty said. "He's a good boy."