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Helen Morris, 88, rescued from burning home, police say

A wheelchair-bound woman suffering from cancer was saved Wednesday from her burning home in Eatons Neck by four people, authorities and rescuers said Thursday.

As flames consumed a second-floor bedroom about 4:45 p.m., a blanket-wrapped Helen Morris, 88, was pushed in her wheelchair by her son, her aide and a heating specialist to a sliding-glass door, where a Suffolk officer helped lift the woman to safety outside, rescuers said.

Two of the rescuers, heating specialist Joseph Cartelli and Second Precinct Officer Matthew Funaro, were lauded Thursday in a news conference held by acting police Commissioner Tim Sini.

“Quite simply, I am joined by two heroes,” Sini said.

Cartelli said he had been called by the family, who he’s serviced for 18 years, because the house on Old Winkle Point Road had no heat.

When he arrived, he said, he noticed a “haze” of smoke inside and ran to the basement, where the boiler lights were flickering and going on and off.

When Morris’ son confirmed that they were not using the fireplace, Cartelli said, he ran up to the second-floor guest bedroom, right above Morris’ first-floor room.

“That’s when I saw the bed was on fire and flames shooting out of it,” the heating specialist told Newsday, noting that the bed had an electric blanket that may have malfunctioned.

Back downstairs, Morris’ son and health care aide wrapped her in blankets and place her in her wheelchair, rescuers said.

“She just gotten out of the hospital with cancer treatment so she was very frail,” said Cartelli, 55, of Kings Park.

They pushed the wheelchair to a sliding-glass door that opened to a deck, where Officer Matthew Funaro jumped into action, helping Cartelli lift Morris in her chair over the threshold.

“We knew we had to care for that person first,” Funaro said. “We got her as far on the deck away from the house as we could. We grabbed some more blankets that were in the house, wrapped some more blankets around her, and tried to shield her from the wind.”

Morris was taken to Huntington Hospital, where she was treated for minor, non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Eatons Neck and Northport firefighters extinguished the fire, police said, and Suffolk arson detectives were looking into the cause.

Thursday night, Cartelli downplayed his role. He said he’s serviced the family’s heating and air conditioning systems for 18 years as an employee of Lewisy Fuel in Northport.

“I did what I had to do,” he said. “It was instinct. I was happy to help my customer and that was the bottom line.”

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