Five dead, including three children, in New York City house fire

Apr 23, 2017 0

Five people — including three children — were killed Sunday after a fast-moving fire tore through a home in the New York City borough of Queens.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon shortly after 2:30 p.m., on a street full of single-family homes in the middle class neighborhood of Queens Village. Television news footage showed flames chewing through the roof of the two-story home and roaring in upstairs rooms of the house as smoke poured from it. The neighborhood is near Belmont Park, which hosts the Belmont Stakes, the final leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown.

“This is a devastation of a family,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, speaking at the scene of the three-alarm fire. He said it was “a fire that moved very, very quickly, and the loss was horrendous.”

“There’s a lot we need to know about what happened here,” the Democrat added.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said witnesses saw someone tumble from a two-story window as smoke billowed. The person, a roughly 46-year-old man, fell onto a porch roof and then a lawn and survived, he said.

Firefighters struggled to reach some of the victims who were as high up as the attic, a “super-human” task for firefighters to reach people in a home engulfed by such a massive fire, Nigro said. He said the wood-frame home burned rapidly.

First-responders carried a limp child from the wreckage.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” neighbor Foster McPhee, 67, told the New York Post. “The guy who was carrying the baby out, you could just see the stress on his face. I’m just emotional about it because I’m a grandfather and I have kids, too.”

Lloyd Taylor, who lived in the home’s basement, told the Post that he fled the building after smelling smoke, but tried to go back in when he realized there were still people inside. 

“I just heard a commotion. And it wasn’t a regular commotion, it was kids in pain,” Taylor said. “All I could think about was the kids. But there was no way for anybody to get back in there.”

Nigro said the victims ranged in age from 2 to 21, plus one adult who was somewhat older.

There was no immediate theory on what started the blaze, but Nigro said there appeared to be no explosion, even though witnesses reported hearing loud booms.

Firefighters tried to save the family even as the rescuers mourned one of their own, firefighter William Tolley, who died Thursday after falling five stories while battling a blaze in Queens.

The fire was the deadliest in the nation’s biggest city since March 2015, when a house fire in Brooklyn killed seven children, all siblings. That fire was touched off by a hot plate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Convicted jihadist with California ties loses US citizenship

Apr 23, 2017 5

A federal judge has revoked the U.S. citizenship of a man who authorities say ran a communications hub for an Egyptian terrorist group out of his Northern California apartment.

The U.S. Department of Justice says a federal judge in the District of Columbia ordered the denaturalization of 57-year-old Khaled Abu al-Dahab on Thursday for lying to immigration officials during the process to gain U.S. citizenship.

The department says that the Egypt native was a member of the terrorist organization Egyptian Islamic Jihad for 10 years starting in 1989.

It says the former Silicon Valley car salesman admitted to operating a communications hub for the group out of his Santa Clara, California, apartment.

Al-Dahab became a U.S. citizen on Feb. 7, 1997. The next year he traveled to Egypt, where he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for being a member of a terrorist organization and trying to overthrow the Egyptian government.

5 killed after house fire breaks out in Queens

Apr 23, 2017 9

Five people — including three children — died in a Queens house fire Sunday.

The blaze broke out at about 2:10 p.m. inside a two-story home at 112-16 208th Street in the Queens Village section and later jumped to a neighboring building, officials said.

Stark video shows first responders carrying a limp child from the wreckage.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot things,” said resident Foster McPhee, 67. “The baby was burned literally to a crisp. The guy who was carrying the baby out, you could just see the stress on his face. I’m just emotional about it because I’m a grandfather and I have kids, too.”

Stricken firefighters fought back tears as others consoled them.


New York reopens oldest surviving theater in Hudson

Apr 23, 2017 10

New York has renovated the state’s oldest surviving theater.

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the reopening of Hudson Hall at the Hudson Opera House.

The $8.5 million renovation project was funded through arts, economic development and parks and recreation grants, as well as some private donors.

Renovations included safety modernizations, and new lighting, soundbooth, dressing rooms and accessible restrooms.

The opera house was built in 1855 and includes in its performance history figures such as Susan B. Anthony and Theodore Roosevelt.

Cuomo’s office says the venue serves more than 50,000 individuals and families annually through performances, exhibits, talks, and youth and senior programs.

Florida teen dons Black Lives Matter prom dress

Apr 23, 2017 14

A Florida teenager’s prom dress stood out from the rest Friday for its Black Lives Matter message.

Milan Morris, 17, donned a floor-length gown that featured the images of young black people whose high-profile deaths led to nationwide protests, reported. The dress, created by Florida-based designer Terrance Torrence, included images of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown, among others.

Morris, from Palm Beach, is a senior at Cardinal Newman High School, where she is an “all-area player” on the school’s basketball team, according to the Palm Beach Post. She will attend Boston College in the fall, the paper reported.

Morris said the idea for the dress, which took four days to make, rested with Torrence. “He was the mastermind behind this whole thing honestly,” Morris told Essence.

Torrence added: “It was powerful and a movement and I knew people would respond to it.”


Ex-soldier's parole for Louisiana murder yanked at last minute

Apr 23, 2017 9

Louisiana has rescinded a controversial parole order granted to an ex-soldier sentenced to 71 years in prison — but who only served 20 years — for kidnapping, raping and killing a young woman.

Samuel Galbraith was a soldier at Fort Polk when he killed 21-year-old Karen Hill, the wife of an Army sergeant in 1988, WBRZ-TV reports. He was arrested for the murder in 1997 and then pleaded guilty on the eve of trial.

He became eligible for parole after turning 45 and serving 20 years of his sentence.

The Louisiana Parole Board granted him parole last year, but the decision left detectives and prosecutors on the case and Hill’s family outraged.

“It was just unconscionable that this particular person would get out after serving less than one-third of his sentence for such a heinous murder and rape he committed,” Vernon Parish District Attorney Asa Skinner told the station.

Galbraith, now 47, was two days from being freed when the Louisiana Department of Corrections announced Friday that Galbraith would have to reapply for parole.

The announcement came after a WBRZ reporter questioned Gov. John Bel Edwards Friday about Galbraith.

Officials said Hill’s mother wasn’t properly notified of his parole hearing in November, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The notification letter went to an address in Albany, N.Y., not Albany, Ill., where the mother Jesse McWilliams lives.

Prosecutors said Galbraith abducted Hill from a convenience store where she worked and took her to the Kisatchi National Forest near Fort Polk. After he raped her, he tied her to a tree and then shot her in the left eye with a .22-caliber handgun.

DNA linked him to the crime, the paper reported.

Skinner suspects Galbraith may have killed two other women who were last seen at a convenience store and whose bodies were found in the woods near Fort Polk, according to the paper.

Small earthquake rattles California coast near Santa Barbara

Apr 23, 2017 10

A small earthquake has rattled parts of the Southern California coast.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-3.6 quake hit just before 11 a.m. Sunday about 3 miles east of Santa Barbara.

A sheriff’s dispatcher says there are no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The geological survey’s website had hundreds of reports of people feeling the shaking nearly 60 miles to the north in Lompoc and as far south as Los Angeles County.

Judge: Suspect in California school killings fit for trial

Apr 23, 2017 10

A California judge has decided that a defendant is mentally competent to stand trial for killing seven former classmates at a small Christian college in 2012.

The East Bay Times reports ( a trial was ordered Friday for One Goh. He’s scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

The former nursing student is charged with killing seven and injuring three during an April 2, 2012, rampage on the Oakland campus of Oikos University.

The trial had been put on hold in 2015 after a judge determined Goh had a mental illness that prevented him from rationally assisting his attorneys with his defense.

Prosecutors say Goh dropped out of Oikos several months before the shooting and wanted his tuition refunded.


Information from: East Bay Times,

Costs mount despite Waco motorcycle gang trials on hold

Apr 23, 2017 11

Costs are mounting for the Central Texas county where a fatal gunfight involving two motorcycle gangs and police led to the indictments of 155 bikers.

The trials arising from the 2015 shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco are on hold until after a federal case against leaders of the Bandidos motorcycle gang wraps up.

The Waco Tribune-Herald ( ) reports McLennan County prosecutors are sharing massive amounts of evidence with defense attorneys while awaiting tests on DNA samples from the shootout that killed nine people and wounded 20 others.

Work related to the case has added up to more than $200,000 for the county, not including more than $500,000 in costs defrayed by state and federal grants and reimbursements. The balance can be paid over several budget years.


Information from: Waco Tribune-Herald,

Remains of Illinois man killed at Pearl Harbor come home

Apr 23, 2017 8

An Illinois sailor has been laid to rest near the community where he grew up — more than 75 years after he was killed at Pearl Harbor.

Michael Galajdik was buried with full military honors on Saturday at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.

The 25-year-old Navy Fireman First Class from Lockport Township was aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The remains of Galajdik — one of more than 2,300 Americans killed in the attack — were recovered after the attack but they could only be positively identified recently because of improvements in DNA technology.

WLS-TV ( ) reported that Galajdik’s remains arrived at O’Hare International Airport on Friday to full military honors from both the Navy and the Chicago Fire Department.