Former Long Islander Michael Borcina, the central figure in a 2011 Christmas fire in Connecticut that killed three young sisters and their grandparents, has died, according to friends and media reports.
The home contractor and builder, 58, died Oct. 3, according to the website of the Fives Funeral Homes and Cremation Service in Patchogue, which is handling the services. He lived in Suffolk on and off over the years, records show.
Borcina died of cancer, said close friend, Greg Bracco of North Babylon, who met Borcina while they were students at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington.
“Mike was one of the most loyal friends anyone could have,” Bracco said. “I don’t think he ever hurt a fly.”
Bracco said Borcina grew up in Brentwood.
The owner of Tiberius Construction, Borcina was blamed for accidentally starting the blaze inside the home in Stamford that he was renovating. Disposed ashes from a fireplace ignited the five-bedroom Victorian home with a view of the Long Island Sound, killing 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger, and their maternal grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson.
Borcina was dating the girls’ mother at the time, Madonna Badger, and both escaped after futilely trying to rescue the others.
He had initially said he put the ashes into the mudroom, raking them with his hand to make sure they were cold, but he later said it was Badger who disposed of the ashes, saying he was protecting her.
He settled a lawsuit filed by the girls’ father, Matthew Badger, for $5 million. At the time, according to state officials, Borcina and his company were not registered to do home improvement work in Connecticut.
Bracco said his friend underwent about six months of rehabilitation for emotional trauma, then worked on a Pennsylvania farm.
Eventually, Borcina took to heart a lesson he had learned through Alcoholics Anonymous, which he had joined long before the fire, succeeding in staying sober for decades, Bracco said.
“AA teaches us to give away what was so freely given to us,” his friend said. “Mike gave back.”
Borcina did not hide the tragedy when he applied for a job at the Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity in Toms River, New Jersey, eager to help the victims of superstorm Sandy.
“He was probably one of the best construction supervisors we ever had,” said Suzan Fichtner, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Borcina spoke of his roots on Long Island as the place where he grew his construction business, she said.
The contractor had gone to New Jersey to help a childhood friend rebuild after Sandy and figured his skills were needed by other families, she said. He saw a purpose to helping a Vietnam War veteran and storm victims get back on their feet and he loved the trade and teaching volunteers skills, she said.
“I really think he needed to be in a place where he was able to help others,” Fichtner said. “That was kind of a healing for him.”
Calls to Borcina’s brothers were not immediately returned Monday night.