Eight-year-old boy killed in fire

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The death of an 8-year-old boy in an early morning fire last Wednesday could have been avoided if his house had smoke detectors, fire officials said this week.

William Grice, a third-grader at PS 236, was found dead by the firefighters who broke down his first-floor bedroom door a half hour after they gained control of the 6 am blaze at the two-family, two-story house on East 57th Street between Avenue T and Avenue U.

“If the house had a smoke alarm, the family would have been alerted to the fire earlier and had a better chance of getting the child out in time,” said FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer, who pointed out that the brick house didn’t have any.

Landlordsare required by law to install smoke detectors in apartments, and tenants are responsible for maintaining them, according to state building code. Neither Grice’s family nor their landlord, Stanley Hechtman, could be reached for comment.

Four other residents, including William’s pre-teen sister, Nicole, and grandmother, Selma Cohen, along with Hechtman and his mother, Betty, were treated for smoke inhalation at Brookdale University Hospital in East Flatbush. Hechtman and his mother escaped through their apartment’s door, heading down the stairs to the front door, while Nicole and her grandmother climbed out a window.

A neighbor, Frank Cardello, said that he called 911 after being woken up by Cohen and her granddaugher.

“They were running down the block in their pajamas, screaming and knocking on doors to let people know the house was on fire and that William was stuck inside,” Cardello said. “I looked over to their house and saw the smoke bellowing out the window.”

The fire occurred as the city shoveled out from under the fifth-largest snowstorm in history, which caused borough-wide delays in responses to 911 calls. But FDNY officials said that the snow did not affect the rescue effort. Response time to the blaze was four-and-a-half minutes, which is considered average.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials suspect that bad electrical wiring is to blame, and the fire may have started in the boy’s room.

Grice’s school will be collecting donations for his family, according to neighborhood blog tonygatto.com.

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Reader Feedback

joanna from no says:
I am joanna I go to236 I know who he was I WAS HIS FRIEND I miss so much i cry my self to sleep that night his was like a little brother to me I pray ever night for his family and i wish them the best in life WE ALL WILL LOVE AND MISS HIM. RIP MY LOVING FRIEND WILLIAM GRICE
Jan. 21, 2012, 9:23 pm
Mandy Salazar from Mill Basin says:
A message to William and whoever else is reading:
This happened four years ago, today. I can clear up some of the foggy details and incorrect facts that every single article and news story told. I was best friends with Nicole Grice, William's older sister. We were eleven at the time. William was only eight. His birthday was in January. He didn't even get to turn nine. I'm not friends with Nicole now, but I remember them both so clearly. I was supposed to sleep over that night, but I didn't. If I had, could I have saved him? That's what I wonder. That's what I always tell myself. If I hadn't bailed, I could have saved him. Because even though I, along with his sister, always teased him, insessently, I loved him. He was like a brother I never really had. I wonder if William is up there, somewhere, in heaven, reading these words right now. If so, then William, I hope you know how sorry I am for making fun of you and hitting you and yelling at you all those times for all those years. I'm sorry I took the thought of your death so lightly, until it happened. I'm sorry for not being there, at your funeral. I'm sorry for laughing with Nicole and our friends at your shiva, instead of missing you. I'm sorry for always taking Nicole's side. And I'm sorry for being so late to tell you all this. You were the closest thing I had to a brother, and you still are. I'm not going to lie and say I miss you- it's been four years, even I have gotten over that- but I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry. I am also here to set things straight for those who are reading this along with you- though I'm sure there aren't many. William Grice lived with his grandma, Selma Cohen, and his older sister, Nicole Grice. They lived in Mill Basin, not Flatlands, about a ten minute walk from my house. No one called William Billy, except his old teacher- who was it? His kindergarten teacher, I think. The rest of us called him William with the occasional Will thrown in. his birthday was sometime in early January, I think the ninth. They live on the first floor of an attached house. Their apartment had smoke detectors- it most definitely had smoke detectors. The batteries just were not in- so they were pretty useless, I guess. The fire happened early in the morning. It started by William's door frame and was an electrical fire. His room was not in the very back of the house- no, it was in the middle. Nicole's room was the back room, bigger than his, and I remember it like it was my own room. That room I miss. But not William's. Nicole was sleeping in her grandmother's bed- not her own. That is why she didn't die- the fire reached her room but she was not in it. She dragged her grandmother out the window in their living room and, barefoot and in pajamas, ran across the street with Selma to their neighbor's house, who let them in, not took them in. This neighbor then called the police. There is so much more I could tell you all, and yes I know that I am alone, that no one is reading this, not even William. But still. I 'gotta save something for next year. Maybe I will leave a comment on this page every year, on every anniversary of his death. Or more likely, I will just comment again later, and get all this stuff off my chest tonight. Sorry, but I guess I just kinda needed to vent a little. Or a lot. Oh well. Goodbye, William. See you again, in the comments.
- Your "sister",
Amanda "Mandy G. Salazar.
P.S.: Remember me?
Dec. 29, 2014, 6:24 pm
Mandy Salazar from Mill Basin says:
Hey guys, its me. Again. Anyways, the reason I commented in the first place was that I was scrolling through Google's results to "william grice brooklyn". And I was doing that because I am doing an art class report and the name "William" came up. So I remembered what day it is. William Grice's death. Four years ago. God, I hope nobody sees this. They'll think I'm crazy. Being hung up on this inncident that happened four years ago. But, still, here I am. So William, what are you doing right now? Dancing through the flames of hell or frollicking through a meadow in heaven? Or are you standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, because you've never moved on? I really hope its not the last one. Anything but the last one. Or is there no life after death after all? If there's anyone who can tell me, it'd be you. But that's okay- I don't want to know, so I don't need you to tell me. I want to be surprised. Anyway, this is about you and that fire- not me. That girl who commented before me- Joanna. I never heard of her. Well, I mean, of course I have heard of the name Joanna- I'm not completely crazy ;). But what I mean is that I never heard William mention her before. Why didn't you mention her, William? Why didn't you mention her? Your family, my family, and I- we all thought you had no friends, that you were alone. Why didn't you tell us, William? Why didn't you tell us you had friends, other than that one boy, Michael, we knew? No, that's a lie. You had two friends that we knew about- Michael, and some other boy whose name I cannot remember. But he was Maya's younger brother. Maya, hmm... I can't seem to remember her last name. Oh well. I tried, at least. That boy Michael was the older brother of Alexiana. Alexiana- didn't we call her Lexi for short?- was always playing with me and Nicole. Well, actually, it's more like she tortured us. But while she hung out with us in the school yard of P.S. 236- where we all went to elementary school- Michael hung out with William. This, I remember. But, anyway (trying to get back on track), he never mentioned a Joanna. Never. And I know I don't have a perfect memory, but I remember that much. How could I not? He had so few friends worth mentioning that the ones he had were memorable. See, William? I cared more than you thought I did. More than you think. So its either that he just wasn't that close with her, or he had a crush on her and didn't want to tell us, or that I just don't remember her, or... she lied. And to be completely honest with you all, that's what I think happened. She lied. But that's okay. Everyone wants to know the dead kid except the ones that actually do know him. Its not uncommon. Not at all. Though I hated people for it, at the time. Anyway, I am going to go try to focus on typing up my art project. Stay tuned for more later.
Dec. 29, 2014, 6:56 pm
Mandy Salazar from Mill Basin says:
Wagner. Maya's last name was Wagner.
Dec. 29, 2014, 7:01 pm

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