Updated 04/15/2012 04:51 PM
Queens Homeowner Loses Cousin, Belongings In Sudden Fire
A homeowner in Auburndale, Queens lost his cousin and most of his belongings in a fire early Sunday, and fire officials spent the day investigating the cause of the blaze. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
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Sunday afternoon, John Rebecchi returned to what was left of his home on 189th Street in Auburndale, Queens, hours after it was destroyed by a fire.
The blaze in what neighbors said was Rebecchi's childhood home had killed his beloved cousin, 63-year-old Joanne Brown, who also lived in the house.
"Everything is gone. He has nothing. What he's wearing now is what he has, that's it," said family friend Louis Digrugilliers.
Rebecchi's nephew, Steve Petri, said Brown was the one who called 911.
"Great lady, lived with my uncle for years. It's a shame," said Petri.
As the fire quickly engulfed the house, neighbors described the scene as nightmarish.
"The flames, I can hear the cracking. And there was screaming and yelling and I came out to him crying," said neighbor Sandra Villafane. "It's very sad, sad story."
"He was screaming for his cousin to come out. He was yelling, 'Joanne, Joanne' and unfortunately she never made it out," said neighbor Angelo Dominguez. "John was a good guy, good neighbor. He didn't deserve this."
Police said firefighters found Brown unconscious inside the home. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Neighbors tried to help, including Mike Colapietro, who tried to douse the flames with his garden hose.
"You see it on TV, we all do, but then when you are faced with the heat and see the great job firefighters do. It's surreal, they just jump right too it," said Colapietro.
Rebecchi was taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. According to his nephew, Rebecchi is now headed to Pennsylvania to stay with his sister.
An investigation into the cause of the fire was underway Sunday.