Family and Friends Say Goodbye to 15-Year-Old Girl Killed in Fire
HAMILTON HEIGHTS — It was her last church service.
More than 100 mourners gathered at the Church of the Annunciation Friday to say goodbye to Melisa Mendez, the 15-year-old who died during a Hamilton Heights fire last week.
“She was a young woman who shared her faith, shared her voice,” Pastor Baltazar Sanchez said during Friday morning's funeral. “When no one else sang, she would sing. She sang to God.”
The fire at 512 W. 136th St., which also injured 12 people and displaced 100 others, was caused by an overloaded power strip on the first floor. The residents of the apartment left the door open as they fled and the flames quickly spread up the stairs, according to the FDNY.
Mendez was with her father on the top floor as smoke began to fill the building. As the two headed down Mendez lost sight of her father, who exited through the fire escape, relatives said.
At the funeral service, the girl's mother Basilia Mendez screamed when she first saw her daughter’s casket. She cried throughout the service, stopping briefly when she stood over the casket and sang along with the choir.
The priest lauded the 15-year-old’s faith and encouraged his congregation to use her life as an example of how to live a holy life.
“Jesus invites us to be prepared,” he said. “Nobody knows the date or the time. Melisa was prepared, she was a child of God.”
After the service, members of the congregation remembered Mendez as a devout teenager more interested in church than in parties.
“It was something special to see a girl her age so devoted to God,” said Ana Paulina, who sings in the church choir.
Mendez’s mother remained in the church as the casket was loaded into the funeral coach. The teen’s aunt, Mary, screamed out Melisa's name as they closed the door.
An anonymous donor paid for the funeral after DNAinfo New York reported the family was struggling to cover the cost. JetBlue paid to take the teen's body to the Dominican Republic, her native country, for burial.
The family will fly to Santo Domingo over the weekend.