QUEENS — A woman died and her only son was critically injured when a fast-moving fire engulfed their Elmhurst home early Monday morning, sources and family members said.
Stella Balcazar, 57, who worked as a cleaner, died Monday after being rushed to Elmhurst Hospital in cardiac arrest and with severe burns following the 3:30 a.m. blaze at inside her home at 42-20 74th St., near Woodside Avenue, according to the FDNY and her family.
"She was a perfect sister. She took care of everyone," said Balcazar's brother, Carlos Balcazar, 61. "I feel terrible. I saw her last week. She was very happy."
Balcazar's 20-year-old son, who family members identified as James Steven Abonia, made it out of the house but was covered in flames, according to witnesses. He was rushed to Weill-Cornell Hospital where he was being treated for third-degree burns, an FDNY spokesman said.
"[He] was literally on fire on the sidewalk," said next door neighbor, Susan Attardi, 49. "The flames were on his back and there was a woman trying to put them out, hitting him with a blanket. He was screaming, 'Help me! Help me!"
Firefighters rushed over to help him, Attardi said. "His eyes were open and he was coherent," she added.
Witnesses said the blaze moved quickly through the two-story home, catching sleeping residents by surprise.
Attardi said she was woken up by her roommate, who smelled smoke and rushed them out of the house, she said.
"We came out and the flames were shooting out to the sidewalk," Attardi said. "The fire department was here ... They had to contain it before they could go in."
It took an hour and a half to contain the fire, which was out by 5 a.m., FDNY officials said.
Carlos said his sister worked as a cleaner and was a loving mother.
"He was everything to her," Carlos said of Abonia. "That was her only son."
Four other civilians and three firefighters were treated at Elmhurst Hospital for minor injuries, the FDNY said.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, but it did not initially appear to be suspicious, an FDNY spokesman said.
With reporting by Katie Honan.