At least 12 dead in massive apartment fire in the Bronx

Published: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 10:33 PM
Updated: Friday, December 29, 2017 @ 7:19 AM

Investigators - Bronx Fire that Left at Least 12 Dead Caused by Child Playing with Stove

Update 12/29, 10:30 a.m. ET: Officials believe they have discovered the cause of a deadly fire that swept through a Bronx apartment building. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that it appears that the fire started with a child playing with a stove on the first floor, The Associated Press reported.

Among the victims of the fast-moving fire were three girls aged 1, 2 and 7 and a boy whose age was not released, The AP reported.

Original post: A massive apartment fire in the Bronx in New York has left at least 12 people dead, including four children, and others seriously injured, according to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office

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Calling it one of the “worst fire tragedies we have seen in this city in a quarter century,” de Blasio said “it will rank as one of the worst losses in a fire in many years.”

Officials said the fire is the most deadly in New York City since 87 people died in the Happy Land arson attack on March 25, 1990, The New York Post reported. That blaze, which occurred at a social club, was located less than a mile away  from Thursday night’s fire.

De Blasio said four people are in critical condition and 12 people were rescued as firefighters continue searching the building.

“We may lose others as well,” he said.

Five people perished inside the five-story, 25-apartment building and seven died at two hospitals, The New York Daily News reported. 

Firefighters respond to a deadly fire Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in the Bronx borough of New York. The New York City mayor's press secretary says several people have died in the blaze on a frigid night, and several more have been injured.(Frank Franklin II/AP)

Firefighters were called to the scene of the fire just before 7 p.m. Thursday night near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo on a bitterly cold night as flames spread through the building, according to The New York Times. At least 160 firefighters converged on the scene to help battle the flames.

“We’re shocked by this loss,” New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“The fire started on the first floor, quickly spread upstairs into this … five-story building with 25 apartments,” Nigro said. “People died on various floors of the apartment. We won’t tell you anything more about it other than they range in ages from 1 to over 50.”

Among the missing is a U.S. Army soldier, the Daily News reported.

Kwabena Mensah, 62, said his 28-year-old son, Emmanuel, was home for the holidays. Mensah said his son’s roommate last saw him when the fire broke out on the third floor.

“He was telling the roommate to not come out of the apartment because there was smoke. But when they rescued everyone from the windows, we couldn’t find him. I went to four hospitals, I can’t find him,” Mensah told the Daily News.

At St. Barnabas Hospital, Brian Whittaker, 36, was lending his support to an injured friend’s relatives.

“It's such a tragedy because they lost so many family members,” Whittaker told the Daily News. “The rest of the family is upstairs in the back. They keep passing out and crying. The father is burnt up real bad.”

Whittaker’s friend was badly burned and is in a coma at Jacobi Medical Center. The man’s daughter and three nieces were killed, Whittaker told the Daily News.

“They were on the fifth floor so they weren't able to make it,” Whitaker said. “Who knows how intense the heat was? I saw it on the news and got a call from a bunch of friends. We came over here around midnight and been here since.”

Firefighters leave after putting out a major house fire in the Bronx borough of New York City.(Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Thierme Diallo fled the building in a panic, awoken by a neighbor, the Daily News reported.

"Someone knocked on my door yelling 'Fire! fire! fire!’ I left my cellphone,” she said. “I took only my wallet because I need to save myself."

Luc Hernandez, a fourth-floor resident, said she came home about 15 minutes after the fire began and “saw black smoke everywhere.”

Hernandez said she rushed into her apartment, grabbed her 11- and 7-year-old boys and scrambled down the fire escape.

A second-floor resident named Rafael said he barely escaped.

“The smoke was bad. I had to run for my life out of there,” he told the Post.

Milka Garcia, who lives on the fifth floor of the building, said she came home to find her three children had been evacuated.

She said her 10-year-old daughter went to school with one of the victims, who’s about 8 years old, at Public School 205.

“This is horrible,” Garcia told the Daily News. “It makes me sad because they were my neighbors, and friends of my daughter’s.”

Not including the 9/11 terror attacks, the worst fire in New York City history was the Brooklyn Theater fire of Dec. 5, 1876, which claimed at least 278 lives, the Post reported.

The only other city fire more deadly than the Happy Land arson blaze was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911.

“We're all struggling with unanswered questions and broken hearts,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.

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E. coli outbreak: CDC warns to ‘avoid all types of romaine lettuce’

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 5:42 PM

E. Coli Outbreak: 'Avoid All Types Of Lettuce' CDC Warns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its warning to include all types of romaine lettuce. The warning now includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine.

The CDC also asks consumers to “not buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.”

Additionally, the CDC suggests that consumers throw away any romaine lettuce in the home, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.

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At least 31 people have been hospitalized, including three who developed a type of kidney failure, according to the CDC.

The affected states include

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Washington

No deaths related to the outbreak have been reported.

The CDC has not yet identified the grower or a common brand, and is urging people not to eat chopped lettuce from the Yuma area.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection vary, but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Most people get better in five to seven days. Infections can be mild, but can also be severe and even life-threatening.

If you think you have E. coli, the CDC says to talk to your health care provider or public health department and write down what you ate in the week before you got sick.

People started reporting illnesses that are part of the outbreak between March 22 and March 31.

DNA fingerprinting is being used to identify illnesses that are part of the same outbreak. Some people might not be included in the CDC’s case count if officials weren’t able to get bacteria strains needed for DNA fingerprinting to link them to the outbreak.

To reduce your risk of an E. coli infection, you can:

  • Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food and after contact with animals.
  • Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs.
  • Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices.
  • Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.

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Convicted murderer leaves courthouse before verdict is read

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:49 PM

Verlaine Laguerre (Photo: Fulton County District Attorney’s Office)
Verlaine Laguerre (Photo: Fulton County District Attorney’s Office)

A man convicted of murder Friday left a courthouse in Atlanta, before the verdict could be read.

Verlaine Laguerre, 26, was found guilty in the killing of Matthew Hardeman, who was 19 at the time of his death.

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After a long legal battle, Laguerre and Prentice Baker were convicted of Hardeman’s murder Friday and sentenced to life in prison, plus five years. But Laguerre didn't show up to hear the verdict.

“I was just fearful. Just fearful. I just said, ‘Lord have mercy,’” Gloria Hardeman said.

She said that she still has faith that the system will bring complete justice for her and her family. 

“I hope the system continues to work to capture him, that he won’t do no harm to himself or nobody else,” Hardeman said.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said Laguerre's whereabouts are unknown at this time and he is considered a fugitive. 

After so many years of waiting, Hardeman said she will have to wait a little longer to see the man who killed her son behind bars where he belongs. 

“It’s been a long time. Praying and crying. Praying and crying, but like I say, we held on,” Hardeman said.

On Oct. 15, 2011, Hardeman and Laguerre got into a physical fistfight outside Hardeman’s Lakewood Terrace home in southeast Atlanta.

Police said it all started because of "dirty looks" between the two. At the end of the fist fight, Laguerre took off, telling Hardeman he was coming back with his "red eye," referring to his gun.

Shortly after the fight, Laguerre came back with his accomplice, Prentice Baker. When Hardeman appeared, Baker opened fire, hitting him multiple times. Laguerre also shot Hardeman with an assault rifle. Police say a third man, who hasn't been identified yet, also fired shots. In total, Hardeman was shot 50 times. His family found him dead in the front yard of their home.

“He wasn’t just but 19, and he hadn’t begun to start his life, and it’s hurting me dearly," Gloria Hardeman said Friday night. 

Matthew Hardeman made a name for himself as a high school football star at Avondale High School in DeKalb County. He then went to Cal State Fullerton on a football scholarship.

After injuring his knee, he was forced to return home to Georgia. At the time of his death, he was taking criminal justice classes at Georgia State University and preparing to play on the football team the next year.

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Two days after Barbara Bush's death, a granddaughter gives birth

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:16 PM

Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO and Founder of FEED Projects (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Visa, Inc. )
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Visa, Inc.
Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO and Founder of FEED Projects (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Visa, Inc. )(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Visa, Inc.)

Just two days after the death of former first lady Barbara Bush, her granddaughter Lauren Bush Lauren and her husband, David, welcomed Max Walker Lauren to the family.

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According to a Facebook post from Barbara’s Bush son Neil Bush, Max was born on Thursday. Arriving two weeks before his mom’s due date, the baby boy weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

Neil shared the news Friday morning and spoke about his mother’s passing as well as recognizing the moment as part of the circle of life:

“Maria and I were so blessed to spend lots of time with mom and dad during mom's last weeks and we are so grateful for the condolences and the outpouring of love expressed towards her by many, many friends. Barbara Bush was loved by everyone. She lived a remarkable life blessing family, friends, and total strangers around the world. Mom left on her own terms. In the final hours she was comfortable, loving, surrounded by family, holding hands with dad. Maria and I will always be grateful for being able to say a proper goodbye to our wonderful mother. And then two days later, yesterday morning, two weeks before her due date, Lauren Bush Lauren gave birth to a beautiful 7 lb 8 oz baby boy Max Walker Lauren. The circle of life. God is good.”

Bush’s daughter Lauren is married to the son of fashion designer Ralph Lauren. Lauren and David were married in 2011 and had their first son in 2015.

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Woman steals identity via social media to land job with 6-figure salary

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 4:17 PM

Woman Tries To Land Six-Figure Job By Stealing Identity Via Social Media

A Louisiana woman with a history of identity theft faces 10 years in prison after she was convicted Wednesday of stealing another woman’s background to land an executive position with a six-figure salary.

Cindy T. White, 41, of Slidell, was found guilty of identity theft over $1,000, according to a news release from the office of 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery. It took jurors just 15 minutes to find White guilty of the charges. 

Montgomery said in the news release that White used information stolen from another woman’s LinkedIn profile to beef up her resume in September 2015, when she applied for an executive-level position with Diversified Foods & Seasonings. reported that the company, based in Covington, was founded by the late entrepreneur Al Copeland.

White also used the other woman’s Social Security number and driver’s license number when applying for the job, the news release said

She was initially hired as a human resources manager, a position with a $95,000 annual salary, Montgomery said. Five months later, she was promoted to senior human resources director, a job with a $105,000 salary. 

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Company officials became suspicious a few months later when they noticed that White had trouble with duties that she should have been able to perform based on her alleged educational background. Her resume listed a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“That’s not this person,” prosecutor Casey Dieck said in court, pointing at White. “This person stole the victim’s hard work and used it to get a six-figure salary and benefits to boot.”

Officials at Diversified Foods & Seasonings also noticed that White delegated a large number of tasks assigned to her, Montgomery said in the news release. They took a closer look at her personnel file and found discrepancies in it. 

Company officials called the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office in April 2016. 

Investigators determined that White lifted her educational background directly from the LinkedIn profile of a woman with a similar name, Montgomery said. They also discovered that she obtained the woman’s driver’s license and Social Security numbers from an unnamed online site. 

A look at White’s real background revealed that this was not the first time she had stolen someone’s identity, the news release said

White, a former Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office employee, was arrested in New Orleans in 1997 on suspicion of theft, forgery and malfeasance in office after she was accused of stealing a co-worker’s identity and emptying the woman’s bank account.

She was caught when she was spotted in surveillance photos and identified, the news release said. She pleaded guilty that September to two counts of forgery and received probation. 

Her probation was terminated in 1999 when the court was sent information that White had died, Montgomery said

White also had a 1998 conviction in Jefferson Parish for attempted theft of goods. 

Prosecutors argued that White, who admitted to St. Tammany Parish investigators that she used the victim’s identity to get the job, fraudulently collected $56,209 during the seven months she worked at Diversified Foods & Seasonings. Her defense attorney argued that she earned the salary she received. 

Dieck denied the defense claim, Montgomery said in the news release

“We have here a defendant who admits to stealing to cover up the fact that she’s a convicted thief,” the prosecutor said. 

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