A fire broke out early Thursday in a two-story home in South Jamaica, killing a beloved grandmother while her family dined downstairs, unaware of the blaze.
Elaine Spencer, 69, was found in the front bedroom of her apartment, Deputy Fire Chief Joe Schiralli said.
"She was found next to the bed," Schiralli said. "The daughter and son-in-law were downstairs having dinner and didn't know there was a fire."
Fire officials got the call to the home at 146-03 120th Ave. at midnight. They arrived to find the second floor of the small, two-family home consumed by flames.
Jessica Banks, a relative who lives nearby, said her second cousin, Sharon Smith, Smith's husband, Andre Perry, and their 11-year-old child Leah Perry, had no idea the house was on fire until a neighbor knocked on their door and told them.
"Everybody was about to go to sleep," Banks said. "A friend of the family came to the house and started to yell 'fire.'"
Rickey Anderson said he and another man rapped on the door, then bolted up the stairs to Spencer's apartment and tried to get in but were halted by smoke and heat.
"The flames were so severe," said Anderson, 55. "I'm not Superman, but I wish I could've got in there."
Schiralli said the fire was doused soon after about 70 firefighters responded to the scene, but the entire second floor of the home was gutted. The Red Cross made arrangements for the family to sleep elsewhere.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.