Police identify victim of fatal New Rochelle building fire
Authorities have identified the woman who died in a fire at a building in New Rochelle.
Police say 60-year-old Judith Musumeci was found dead from apparent smoke inhalation. Musumeci was the building’s superintendent and also lived there.
The five-alarm fire burned for a least 12 hours, with more hot spots that firefighters put out Friday morning.
The most daunting challenge for firefighters was the dense structure of the cockloft, which is the area between the top floor ceiling and the roof.
New Rochelle Fire Department Chief Andrew Sandor said it was difficult for them to break through and access vital parts of the fire.
"Ultimately it was determined that it was just unsafe for our people to be up there with the way the fire had advanced, so that's why all day you saw everybody out here with all the master streams," Sandor added.
News 12 was told about nine different fire departments helped to either cover firehouses or fight the flames. Some firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation and one was cut on the leg.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Authorities said there is no reason to believe this fire was intentional.
The New Rochelle Police Department said it's working with Westchester County Police, their arson dog, along with Yonkers police and fire department, to find out where and why the fire started and whether it was accidental or criminal.
Meantime, the businesses under the building have gone through turbulent times between closing and reopening during the pandemic, Hurricane Ida's remnants, and now the fire, which has pulled the plug on some of them.
With more than 40 years of karate under her black belt, Tracy Seymour has been a star student at the New Rochelle Combative Arts.
"This is nothing less than family and every sense," Seymour said. She said owner and grandmaster, Raymond Fitzpatrick, also lived in the building.
"It's heartbreaking. This is his life's work," she added. "We can't let this be the last straw. We're his family. We're going to help him, pick him up and move forward."
Seymour started a GoFundMe page for Fitzpatrick and his bushings with the hopes to raise enough funds to help him stand up once again.