FALL RIVER (CBS) – A speeding car crashed into an apartment building in Fall River Tuesday morning, sparking a huge fire, killing an elderly driver.
It happened at the Four Winds apartment complex on North Main Street around 9:40 a.m. The car went about 15 feet inside the building.
Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn identified the woman who died as 72-year-old Judith Mauretti of Fall River. She was the driver of a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix. A 75-year-old Fall River woman who was a passenger at the time of the crash is in critical condition at Rhode Island Hospital.
“It could have been a disaster because that car hit natural gas lines that were ruptured,” Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch told reporters.
All of the 45 residents escaped safely. Some told WBZ-TV’s Lisa Gresci the fire alarms started going off immediately after the crash. Many ran out and were separated from their pets as heavy flames shot out of a second-floor apartment and heavy smoke poured around other units.
The fire appeared to be under control two hours later, but flames then tore through the roof just after noon.
It was eventually brought under control with the help of about 100 firefighters, some who came from as far away as Providence, Rhode Island.
After hours of calm at the scene, heavy flames rekindled just before 9 p.m. on the opposite half of the building and then again overnight.
The rekindled fire destroyed the side of the building that had been spared in the morning blaze.
Four firefighters were taken to the hospital for observation, but all are said to be in good condition.
The cause of the crash is still not known, but investigators said foul play is not suspected at this point in the investigation.
Jessica Walsh was in the building when she heard the explosion caused by impact.
“We just heard an explosion. Then our roommates were yelling ‘There’s smoke, there’s smoke!’” she recalled. “Then I just got up, went to the living room and all outside our living room was just smoke. One of my friend’s opened the back door and there was a fire ten, five feet in front of our face.”
Zack Smart said it was a close call for his family.
“We live right next to the boiler room. So when the car went in, if it was five feet to the right it was definitely going through one of our rooms,” Smart said.
Bill Driscoll lives in the building and thinks he lost everything. He’s worried about his missing cats.
“Because they wouldn’t come. The fire alarm scared them too bad we couldn’t get them in time and it was filling with smoke,” he said. “Just praying that they’re OK. I don’t know”