NYPD: Lag in FDNY Response to Deadly Blaze at Ramon Velez Jr. Home

By Jess Wisloski and Amanda Mikelberg  on July 13, 2013 3:16pm  | Updated on July 13, 2013 5:18pm

 Three people were injured and one woman died in a fire at 326 Swinton Ave. on Friday, July 12, 2013.
Three people were injured and one woman died in a fire at 326 Swinton Ave. on Friday, July 12, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Pedro Oliveira Jr.

THROGS NECK — A few minutes of fumbling might have cost the life of a prominent Bronx community leader's spouse, according to officials who say a 911 operator may have bungled the call reporting a Bronx blaze that proved deadly.

Five minutes after the first panicky call was placed to 911 reporting a fire Friday morning at 326 Swinton Ave., an operator finally connected the report with an FDNY dispatcher who had the power to respond, the NY Daily News reported.

"The NYPD is investigating whether the call was handled properly," an NYPD spokesman confirmed Saturday.

The gap in response time may have leading to the death of Ketty Lamarche, 55, or caused further injury to Ramon Velez, Jr., a Bronx housing leader and community icon, who was still in a coma Saturday, as well as his 5-year-old granddaughter and mother-in-law,

Velez is the son of former Bronx City Councilman Ramon Velez, Sr., who was influential in involving Puerto Ricans to gain political traction in the city, and who founded the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The call came in at 3:45:25 on Friday, the paper wrote, and didn't reach an FDNY responder until 3:50:29, as an operator wasted valuable minutes "trying to pinpoint the burning home's location" instead of passing the message along.

According to ABC News, the first call, which lasted 90 seconds, came in from two blocks away, and the caller didn't have the exact location of the fire, leading the operator to hunt for the right location.

While a call at 3:53 was sent through the proper way, a spokesman for the NYPD told said an investigation would ensue, the News wrote.

"'That call was handled responsibly. The department is investigating as to why that didn't happen with the first call,'" said Deputy Inspector Paul Browne.

The FDNY still was unclear on what caused the blaze, which started on the second floor, however no working fire alarms were found in the home, according to officials.

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