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Grandmother Dies in Williamsburg Fire That Injured 6 Others, Family Says

By  Valeria Ricciulli Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | March 29, 2016 7:47am | Updated on March 29, 2016 4:46pm

 Patricia Serrano died after a fire broke out in 232 Metropolitan Ave., relatives said.
Patricia Serrano died after a fire broke out in 232 Metropolitan Ave., relatives said.
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Family handout and DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

WILLIAMSBURG — A grandmother trying to escape her burning apartment building along with her family died after collapsing on the fire escape Monday night, relatives said.

Patricia Serrano, 68, was in her third-floor apartment at 232 Metropolitan Ave., near North Third Street, about 10:40 p.m. when the blaze broke out in an apartment two floors below as someone tried to mend a faulty electrical outlet, family and sources said.

"All I remember was within 10 seconds, everyone was screaming," said Serrano's grandson, Eric Nieves, 22, who also lived with her.

Serrano, who worked as a public health assistant for Woodhull Medical Center, initially went around her floor, banging on the doors to let her neighbors know there was a fire until her grandson started ushering her out of the building, neighbors and her grandson said.

"It was scary, scary. Smoke was just cloudy. All the lights went out. I told my grandma, 'You have to get out!'"

Nieves and his aunt were trying to get Serrano out of the building but she was having leg problems and couldn't run, he said. A firefighter told him and the others they had to get out for their own safety, Nieves said.

"We were trying to get her out and a firefighter said, 'You gotta go!' She was in the dark. It was horrific," Nieves added.

Serrano began having a seizure on the fire escape, and firefighters eventually brought her out on a stretcher, Nieves said. She went into cardiac arrest, FDNY officials said.

"I wanted to be with her at every moment possible, but the firefighters urged me to get out. I was forced to just leave her there. It was the most horrifying thing for me. I wish I could have had at least 10 more seconds to be with her at the last moment," Nieves said.

Serrano, who was from Puerto Rico, was pronounced dead at Woodhull Medical Center, her grandson said.

"They were trying to resuscitate her. Three hours after the fire, she couldn't hold to it any longer," her grandson said. "It hurts, but I did what I could. She's in a happier place."

Six other tenants were also injured — one with smoke inhalation and five others who were treated at the scene  — during the blaze, which trapped a number of residents with large flames and smoke, they said.

"There was smoke all over the place. We were trapped. We were screaming. We tried to open the door and there was black smoke everywhere," said fifth-floor tenant Josefina Oduna, 58.

"I didn't think I was going to make it out. Flames were coming up the fire escape, so we couldn't get out. Firefighters finally got us," Oduna added.

More than 100 firefighters brought the blaze under control about an hour later, the FDNY spokesman said Tuesday.

The FDNY had visited the building on Saturday about 5:30 p.m. because of a faulty outlet in a first-floor apartment, saw that there was no fire or injuries and told the super to fix the problem, a spokesman said.

The building's super, Jasmani Santillan, 34, replaced a cable in the outlet, he said.

But the outlet started sparking the next day and the FDNY came to shut off the power before telling Santillan again to fix the issue, officials said.

Santillan said he called an electrician, who never showed up, but never touched the outlet or turned on the power after the FDNY visit.

But investigators believe Monday night's fire started when someone tried to fix the faulty outlet, sources said.

A woman, who Santillan identified as the tenant of the apartment where the fire began, refused to speak to reporters.

Relatives remembered Serrano as being devoted to her loved ones and an avid game player.

"She was a loving, caring, funny person. She raised me. She fed me," her grandson said.

"She always wanted to go to Atlantic City. She did a lot of community work with the senior center. She'd play bingo with the older ladies, have lunch with them."

Four others were treated for minor injuries, officials said.

Ben, a Chihuahua mix that lived on the fourth floor with Elsa Hernandez, 65, also died in the fire, Hernandez said.

Hernandez, who's had Ben for 12 years, was trying to coax the dog out, but he was too scared to move, she said.

"I told him, 'Baby, let's go! There's danger!' and he let go of the leash. I couldn't carry him. He died in the middle of the staircase," Hernandez said.

"I didn't know that you could love an animal so much. He was like my child," she said, weeping.

Ben the Dog

Ben, who has lived with Elsa Hernandez for 12 years, died in the fire, Hernandez said. (Handout)