2nd woman dies following crash, fire that destroyed apartment building

By: Hannah Dickison

Email: news@abc6.com

Twitter: @ABC6

A second woman has died following a crash into a Fall River apartment complex that sparked a massive fire that continued to burn Wednesday afternoon.

The fire began Tuesday at the Four Winds apartment complex after 72-year-old Judith Mauretti, of Fall River, crashed her car into the first-floor utility room and ruptured several gas lines.

She was pronounced dead at the scene, while the passenger, 75-year-old Linda Leahey of Fall River died at Rhode Island Hospital, according to the district attorney’s office.

According to Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch, it will likely be another 24 hours before the fire is put out.

Crews are currently using two excavators to knock down the building piece by piece so they can reach the interior where the flames are burning.

The fire at the scene of Tuesday’s deadly car crash into the building reignited late Tuesday night, leaving firefighters no choice but to knock the building down and extinguish the flames still burning inside.

“For this to happen on New Years Day, it’s just unfortunate. And for the woman who passed away, just tragic,” neighbor Leslie Rego said.

Firefighters have been battling flames throughout the night an into the morning.

7 firefighters were transported to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and exhaustion.

“They’re all doing very well today, most of them expected to be released so that worry is over for us,” Chief John D. Lynch told ABC 6.

Mike Yates used to live in the building and has friends who narrowly escaped with their lives.

“He was just to the left of where the car entered the building. They lost everything they own. They got out with their lives, more importantly, thank Jesus,” said Yates.

“They ran out, the babies had no clothes on, it was cold. My daughter ran over there, and she’s just seeing this now for the first time since,” said Debra Degroot’s, whose daughter and 4 grandchildren lived in the complex. 

Several Go-Fund-Me pages have been set up to assist 80 displaced residents.

No residents were injured and 7 pets have been rescued.