Indian American Mohinvei Singh, 68, died in a house fire in Queens on Sunday, Sept. 24, at the corner of 97th Avenue near 107th Street, in Ozone Park.
According to the New York Daily News, Singh went to the basement after he saw smoke coming into his first-floor bedroom and “never came back.”
Singh’s son, Belkarn Singh, who also woke up to a smoke filled bedroom, went to go looking for his dad but “he couldn’t find him,” said Raman Deol, Singh’s son-in-law, who was forced to give up his search amid the choking smoke.
Sandeep Kaur, a second-floor tenant of the three-story home, also awoke to find thick smoke flooding the hallways.
“I went to the kitchen to check the stove, but I couldn’t turn on the light. None of the power was on. My first thought was to get out of the house. I didn’t have a chance to grab my shoes.”
Residents who lived upstairs told the New York Daily News that they saw sparks flying outside.
“We saw sparkling on the electric pole and then a flash come from our AC. I saw the sparks outside and we came running out,” said Harish Kumari, who lives on the third floor with two of his cousins.
The fire began in the home’s basement breaker box at around 2:30 a.m. and was brought under control at 3:40 a.m.
Deol recalled his father-in-law as a kind, hard-working man who supported many relatives and friends when they moved to the city.
Singh arrived from Punjab, India, more than 30 years ago and drove cabs for two decades.
“He worked overtime and helped four of his brothers immigrate here to the United States. He helped his friends get jobs in gas stations, in construction and driving cabs. He was a helpful, peaceful man,” Deol said.
“It’s so sad. He got trapped in the basement,” Melanie Ramadhin, a neighbor, told the New York Post.
Another neighbor said three unrelated Sikh families from India had been living in the home before it burned down.
Singh is survived by his wife Jasbeer Kaur, two daughters, son and four young grandchildren.