Elderly couple dead, 5 firefighters hurt in luxury high-rise inferno

January 12, 2019 - 12:17 pm

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – An elderly couple died in an early morning fire at a ritzy high-rise on Manhattan’s East Side Saturday morning, officials say.

Firefighters responded to the fast-moving blaze at the River House, at 435 East 52nd St. in Midtown, around 5:20 a.m.

They were met by intense flames pouring from the ninth-floor apartment where the couple lived.

An 85-year-old woman was found unconscious in the apartment and pronounced dead at the scene.

Her 89-year-old husband was rushed to Cornell Medical Center, where he too was pronounced dead.

The couple were later identified as Mary and John Merow.

Sources tell 1010 WINS that the wife may have been smoking a cigarette in bed. 

FDNY Deputy Chief James Coyne said wind coming in through the broken windows helped fan the flames.  

“You have a fire on the upper floor in a building off the river, and the windows were already out, so you have plenty of wind and air adding fuel to the fire,” Coyne said.

Five firefighters were also injured, according to Coyne, who said they suffered relatively minor injuries.

“It was a very difficult operation. They operated in high heat, zero visibility,” Coyne said.  

The fire marshal is investigating the cause of the inferno.

River House is notorious for turning down prospective residents, like Richard Nixon, Joan Crawford and, more recently, the French ambassador.