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Neighbors: We tried to rescue the woman who died in the fire

The Lindenhurst Fire Department battled a house fire in Lindenhurst early Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost)

A woman was killed Thursday in an early morning fire that thwarted rescue efforts from three neighbors — two retired city firefighters and a retired city policeman.

Ramona Angwin, 79, died in the blaze that tore through her 34th Street home about 3 a.m., Suffolk police said.

“We were right there,” neighbor Billy Clemens, 53, a retired NYPD officer, said Thursday night. “We were so close, but there was nothing we could do.”

Clemens, his father, Artie Clemens, and another neighbor, dashing out in their pajamas, tried to break down the front door, and one even propped a ladder against the second floor, but the flames overcame their efforts, one of them said.

“Holy cow, it was roaring out the windows,” said Artie Clemens, 79, a retired FDNY member who ran out from his house two doors away.

He said he was asleep when he heard a noise, then glass breaking and thought a burglar was trying to break in, but Billy Clemens, who lives with him, yelled, “Fire, fire!”

The younger Clemens, shoeless, said he got within feet of the front door but could not go farther as flames shot out the nearby window. It was the same when he ran to the back door, he said.

Angwin’s next-door neighbor, retired firefighter Tom O’Brien, passed a ladder to Clemens, who propped it up against a second-floor window. O’Brien broke the window with a crowbar and together, the two men shouted the woman’s nickname, Ricki, but there was no answer, the younger Clemens said.

Police said a preliminary investigation indicates the cause of the fire was not criminal.

Both Clemens said Angwin and her husband had been a quiet, nice couple who had lived there for decades. But Angwin’s husband died about 20 years ago, they said, and the widow lived alone, tending her yard and walking by herself to stores.

Hours after the fire, a father and son trained to save people were replaying the tragedy in their minds.

“Did we do enough?” Clem ens said he asked his son. “We did our best.”

With William Murphy


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