July 12, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A 9-year-old boy was killed in a fire that tore through his parents’ Arverne home Sunday morning in what police say was a suspicious incident.
The young boy, Matthew Pichardo, was trapped inside his family’s second floor apartment at 69-37 Hillmeyer Ave. when the deadly fire broke out.
The FDNY was called out to the blaze at around 6:30 a.m. that ripped through the 2-story multi-family building. Twenty-five fire units consisting of more than 100 personnel arrived on the scene a short time after, according to a fire department spokesperson.
Firefighters got the blaze under control at around 7:30 a.m. and found the boy inside the building unconscious and unresponsive, the FDNY said.
The child was transported to an area hospital by EMS where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Three other people suffered minor injuries in the inferno that torched all four apartments in the building, the FDNY said.
Police are treating the cause of the fire as suspicious, although did not provide any further details.
Neighbors say that the family is known for carrying out unusual rituals and animal sacrifices based on the African religion “Yoruba,” according to the New York Post.
“I see them killing animals, sitting in a circle with their hands over their eyes, pouring the blood right where the fire started,” building owner Chezy Fishback told The Post.
“They do this all the time. All weekend, killing animals.”
Fire officials found at least 20 votive candles in the kitchen and the rear yard of the home—along with crates of live animals, naked life-sized dolls and other paraphernalia, The Post reported.
The Fire Marshall will ultimately determine the cause of the fire and the investigation is ongoing.