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Officials: Overloaded electrical connection started fatal Roosevelt house fire

Nassau fire marshals and firefighters investigate the scene

Nassau fire marshals and firefighters investigate the scene of a fatal fire on Debevoise Avenue on Friday, April 3, 2015 in Roosevelt. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Flames swept through a crowded Roosevelt home early Friday, killing a man trapped in his apartment and forcing two people to jump from a second-floor window, authorities said.

Eleven people were inside the Debevoise Avenue home -- carved into 10 apartments -- when the accidental fire started about 2:20 a.m., Nassau police and witnesses said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the front of the two-story house was engulfed in flames and residents were fleeing, Roosevelt Fire Chief Derrick Fennell said.

Ashley Fernandez, 19, who lives across the street, said she woke up to the sound of people yelling and saw the home's front porch was burning.

"It literally lit up in like two minutes," she said.

Dica Thompson, 41, whose apartment is on the first floor, said she yelled, "The house is on fire!" to alert other people.

Thompson said she could hear the victim's voice from his second-floor room and assumed later that he had made it outside.

"I'm hurt because one person didn't make it out of the house who I thought made it out," she said at an East Meadow motel where the American Red Cross was housing the displaced tenants. "If I had known . . . I would have went in to get him."

It wasn't until at least 30 minutes after arriving that firefighters were told someone may be missing, Fennell said.

The man's body was discovered in his room, authorities said. His identity was withheld Friday night pending a positive DNA identification.

More than 100 firefighters from Roosevelt, Hempstead, Uniondale, Baldwin and South Hempstead, Merrick, Freeport, North Bellmore and North Merrick responded, officials said.

The blaze started in a first-floor bedroom and quickly spread, said James Hickman, supervisor of the fire investigations division of the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office.

Investigators believe the fire was caused by an overloaded electrical connection, police said.

A man and a woman suffered minor injuries in their jump from the second floor, authorities said.

Hickman said it didn't appear that there were smoke detectors in the home.

Charles Dyson, 52, who lives in the basement, said he heard noises upstairs and went to investigate.

"I noticed that front left window blazing, and I said 'Oh My God,' " he said.

Dyson said he banged on his roommate's door to wake him up.

Thompson, who has a first-floor rear apartment, said she heard the man in the room where the blaze started yell "Fire!" She said she did what she could to get others out safely.

Thompson said heavy smoke prevented her from going upstairs.

Eleven residents on public assistance lived in the home, according to Thompson. She said tenants paid rents ranging from $450 to $650 a month.

The owner of the home could not be reached Friday.

The Town of Hempstead said it issued the owner summonses in 2011 and 2014 for code violations, including one for an unauthorized basement apartment, said spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky.

The house, deemed a total loss, was demolished by the town Friday afternoon.

With John Valenti

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