A Buildings Department investigation into the Bensonhurst tenement where a fire killed five has proved what many suspected—that the building was an illegally subdivided death-trap, where escape was nearly impossible. The Daily News says as many as 15 people—all Guatemalan immigrants—were crowded onto its third floor thanks to three illegally-built walls. Since fire escapes were blocked for some units, the only exit was the smoky collapsing stairwell, where the fire was set, allegedly by second-floor resident Daniel Ignacio.
The building’s owner was fined $25,000 for each violation, but he claims ignorance. "I'm not aware of this [and] I have no idea," said Bill Gerazounis, a real estate agent on Long Island. He added a plea for redemption. "[The fire] was terrible. It was tragic, but one day my story will come out," he said. The DA is still considering whether to launch a criminal investigation against Gerazounis and the Buildings Department Commissioner says what he did was unconscionable: "Putting a profit ahead of public safety is unacceptable."
Daniel Ignacio, the drunk, Satan-hearing accused arsonist still faces charges of setting the fire and killing five of his neighbors—including the brave mother who threw her two kids from a window rather than allowing them to perish in the blaze. Police say he knowingly set the fire using lighter fluid and a roll of toilet paper, but according to Ignacio it was an accident; he blames a stray cigarette and too many pints of vodka.