An American flag, blackened with soot, was still hanging Friday morning from the front of the small Mastic house where two people died and one was critically burned in an overnight fire.
Homeowner Douglas DeSouza, 64, was killed, and his wife, Barbara, also 64, was badly burned, officials said. She remained in critical condition Friday at Stony Brook University Medical Center, police said. A friend, Robert Brownell, 64, who had been temporarily living with the couple, also was killed, officials said.
There were no smoke alarms in the house, according to Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick of the Suffolk County Homicide Squad. He said the fire, reported to 911 at 11:17 p.m. Thursday, started in the living room, but the cause was not known.
Douglas DeSouza, a former Army drill instructor and part-time handyman, liked to play his guitar in the backyard and to sit at a table in the front yard to watch Yankees games on TV, family and friends said.
"They were a close family," neighbor Louis Cintron said. Neighbor Herb Deere called DeSouza and his wife "down to earth."
Family friends said Douglas and Barbara DeSouza had been "sweethearts" since their youth in Levittown, and that they bought the Mastic house in 1971.
"They'd loved each other since they were kids. I can't imagine how Barbara would survive without him," said Gloria Radosta, Brownell's first ex-wife.
Brownell, a printer by trade, moved in with the DeSouzas last year after returning to Long Island from Virginia to be closer to his son, Radosta, of Ridge, said. He and Radosta have a son, Christopher, 41, of Shirley. He has a daughter, Jessica Leo, 37, of Phoenix, with his second ex-wife, Radosta said.
The DeSouzas have three children, John, 46, of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Lilian, 36, of Wakefield, Mass., and Douglas Jr., 37.
Douglas Jr. arrived at the home about 1 p.m. Friday after spending time with his mother at the hospital. Head bowed, he said his father was "a great man" and that his parents had been married for more than 40 years. He spoke only briefly before excusing himself.
All three occupants of the house suffered smoke inhalation, Fitzpatrick said. Douglas DeSouza was found near a desk in the living room, and Brownell was by a backyard door, Fitzpatrick said. Barbara DeSouza was in bed, and Mastic firefighters pulled her out of the house through a window, he said.