FALL RIVER (CBS) – A fire at a deadly crash scene in Fall River continued to burn Wednesday as the fire chief said the apartment building must be torn down, leaving 80 residents without a home.
A car sped into the Four Winds apartment complex on North Main Street around 9:40 a.m. Tuesday. It went about 15 feet inside the boiler room, hit natural gas lines and burst into flames.
The driver, 72-year-old Judith Mauretti of Fall River, died at the scene. Her 75-year-old passenger, identified as Linda Leahey of Fall River, was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital Wednesday afternoon.
No one in the apartment building was hurt, but the complex was severely damaged. The fire was put out, then re-ignited several times, once in the afternoon, again Tuesday night and then a third time early Wednesday morning about 20 hours after the crash. Flames could still be seen coming through the roof early Wednesday afternoon.
A total of seven firefighters have been taken to the hospital, but all are doing well, according to Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch.
There’s no word yet on what caused the crash, but investigators said foul play is not suspected.
“You can see there’s been some major collapses, the back side of the building is bowing out at this point so we’re not allowing any men back there,” said Lynch Wednesday morning. “The only way we are going to put this [fire] out is to start to tear it out and get at the voids because there’s still a lot of fire and we can’t reach it from the outside with the water unless we’ve physically started to take the pieces apart and wet them down as we pull it apart so we’re bringing in two excavators with the building department to do that.”
For residents, the sight was a lot to take in. Zach Albrecht and his fiancée, Bre, stopped by several times to look at their former home.
“You don’t expect it to happen and then you know within 24 hours you have lost basically everything,” Albrecht said.
“Go get her up. Go get the cats and get us all out of the apartment as quick as possible,” said Albrecht.
After a having a chance to think, there was one item the couple really hoped to save. They had returned from Minnesota the night before with Bre’s wedding dress.
“I tried to get the dress out late that night. I was talking to the firefighters about it, but it wasn’t safe for them to go back in there which I completely understood,” said Albercht. “She is taking it like a champ. She’s my rock.”
The wedding dress can hopefully be replaced. The couple knows family cannot.
“This is not easy, by any means, but making sure we have each other and have the cats. And we are still a family and all together,” said Albrecht.
The couple said they were planning to get married in Ireland this summer. As a result of losing everything they now will do something low-key in Minnesota where they are from.
Lynch said the Red Cross is assisting displaced residents.
Firefighters were able to save seven pets. A few people were let back into the building on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, the complex was so unstable that no one could go inside to get what’s left of their belongings.
“Our main concern right now is to make sure nobody else gets hurt at this scene,” Lynch added.
There were no sprinklers in the apartment building.
Watch: Raw Aerial Video Of Fall River Fire Scene