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Fatal Jamaica Estates Fire Sparked by Smoking in Bed, Sources Say

By  Joe Parziale Theodore Parisienne Aidan Gardiner and Murray Weiss | February 19, 2013 7:13am | Updated on February 19, 2013 2:39pm

JAMAICA ESTATES — A 62-year-old man was killed and his elderly mother was in serious condition after a fire ripped through their second-floor apartment on Wexford Terrace, fire officials and sources said.

Henri Schwan, who neighbors said lived with his bed-ridden mother Rosario Schwan, was smoking in bed and lit his mattress on fire, sparking the fatal blaze that engulfed their second-floor apartment at 182-30 Wexford Terrace, near Avon Street, source said. The 5:12 a.m. fire was under control by 6 a.m., police and FDNY officials said.

Rosario Schwan was taken to New York Hospital Queens with serious injuries, an FDNY spokesman said.

Neighbors and building staff said the younger Schwan was devoted to his mother, who had been confined to bed by a heart condition.

"They were good people," said the building's doorman, who declined to give his name. "He took care of his mother and they mostly kept to themselves."

Others said the two hailed from Costa Rica, and had lived in the building for several decades.

"It's very sad because he was a nice guy, it's very sad to see good people go," said Carlos Mairen, 57, who has been a handyman at the building for the past thirty years.

"He was very quiet, he never bothered anybody, they were always nice to us, very kind."

Neighbors said the predawn fire woke them early Tuesday morning.

"It was very scary," said a second-floor tenant who declined to give her name. "It was a very frightening situation. The apartment was filling up with smoke. We gathered a few of our things. We headed for the bedroom because that's where the fire escape is."

She sat outside on the fire escape, clutching her newborn boy, and waited out the blaze down the hall, she said.

The fire was brought under control by 6 a.m., officials said. Rescue workers found Schwan's body  inside his second-floor apartment, officials said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries in the fire and was taken to Queens Hospital Center, the FDNY said. Another person with minor injuries refused treatment at the scene.

Police said the fire was not believed to be suspicious.