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Williamsburg, NY - Holiday Painful for Woman Who Lost Three in 2005 Passover Fire

Published on: April 11, 2009 09:26 PM
By: NY Daily News
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Passover fire in 2005 at the Bedford Gardens that killed three orthodox Jewish children in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Passover fire in 2005 at the Bedford Gardens that killed three orthodox Jewish children in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Williamsburg, NY - Passover is supposed to be a time for celebration and thanksgiving, a time for family and for children, but in Brooklyn, there is little joy for Rachel Matyas.

The Orthodox Jewish matriarch still struggles with the horrible memories of a fire three years ago that killed her two youngest boys and a grandson.

The so-called Passover Fire that swept through her apartment on April 25, 2005, also injured 10 others and left her family broken in ways that can never be fixed.

“It’s very hard to talk about it,” Matyas, 64, said. “The wound is still open. It’s such a hard time of year because I just keep crying all the time.”

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Thoughts of 16-year-old Eugene, 13-year-old Yuda and little Israel Falkowitz, 7, her grandson, were constantly with her as she cleaned before the holiday, hunted through the house to rid it of unleavened bread, called hametz, and prepared last night’s ritual dinner, called the Seder.

“It hurts to take out the hametz, to bring in the matzo, everything,” she said.

The fire was officially declared accidental, though some blamed the religious prohibition against turning stoves on or off on Passover.

The family blames a faulty stove, and documents in their suit against the management of the low-income Williamsburg apartment show they complained about the $250 appliance and that workers tried to fix it four times in the year before the fire, lawyer Herb Subin said.

“They were fixing it as recently as 10 days before the fire,” Subin said, noting there had been 37 fires in the building in the previous seven months.
“It was a chronically defective stove, but the defendants chose to be penny-wise, pound-foolish, and it cost three lives,” he said.

The apartment’s design also was to blame, Subin said, since the kitchen where the fire started is next to the door and the only escape is out the windows.
A faulty smoke detector didn’t help either, he noted. The boys died of smoke inhalation. Two sisters broke legs leaping from the second-story window.

Lawyers for Bedford Gardens Co., the Ross-Rodney Housing Corp. and Kraus Management, all named in the $100million suit, did not return repeated phone calls.

Rachel Matyas has eight older children, but nothing can replace what she lost that day.

Still, she hides her anger and sorrow so that grandkids and other young ones at the Seder will think of Passover as a time of celebration - not as the dreadful anniversary it also has become.

“The only way to survive is by having faith in whatever Hashem [God] does,” she said.
“Hashem has a plan. We don’t understand, but we believe. That gives us the strength to go forward.”

 


More of today's headlines

New York - U.S. Stocks rose sharply Thursday the first day of passover after an upbeat forecast from Wells Fargo, capping their fifth straight up week. Wells Fargo... Washington - "Pass the matzo, please," President Obama seems to be saying as he makes history last night -- becoming the first sitting president to host a White House...

 

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Read Comments (19)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 11, 2009 at 08:37 PM Anonymous Says:

what's the point of opening up old wounds??

2

 Apr 11, 2009 at 09:20 PM feel their pain Says:

There is nothing to post after reading this horrible story, and I can't imagine what good it can bring for the family when receiving 100 mill, it will however only cause rent hikes for others. And that's unfourtunate

3

 Apr 11, 2009 at 11:07 PM bigwheeel Says:

...The notorious K... [mis] management co. is mostly to blame for this tragedy. One other factor in the delay of effective help to arrive on scene was that the gate closest to the affected area was locked with a heavy chain and padlock. The FD had to go around to reach the victims, thus enhancing the tragedy!!!

4

 Apr 11, 2009 at 11:17 PM Anonymous Says:

the 100 mill is not worth replacing the yiddisha neshamas that were taken

5

 Apr 11, 2009 at 11:46 PM english Says:

nothing can compare to her pain. may she only have nachas for the future.

6

 Apr 11, 2009 at 11:50 PM Zindel Says:

R' S. Matyash is a true tzadik!
Walks around with a smile he's matzdik the gzairas hashem. He's the one being mechazik other people who need chizuk.

7

 Apr 12, 2009 at 12:36 AM fargin Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

the 100 mill is not worth replacing the yiddisha neshamas that were taken

mony doesn't replace, but it can help. nobady can imagine how much kohach she needs just to push trough the day. the amount of mony she has to pay for therapists for her, for her married daughter who also lost a child, and for the two girls that had to jomp out the window, can you imagine how much trauma this girls whent through? she didn't chose mony over her kinds. what hepend hepend, now she needs the mony to put her family back together. their is nothing to be "gellias" about. i am sure she needs all the amount of mony she can get, just to keep her haed above water. and her family together.

8

 Apr 12, 2009 at 12:17 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

the 100 mill is not worth replacing the yiddisha neshamas that were taken

mony doesn't replace, but it helps. can you even imagine how much she has to pay for therapist for her, her married doug

9

 Apr 12, 2009 at 12:06 AM scy4851 Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

what's the point of opening up old wounds??

you should never be in her shoes so you should never understand the point!

10

 Apr 12, 2009 at 07:05 AM Mindy Says:

there almost isn't a Pesach that I do not think of this poor family. I am not related to them; the closest relation I have is that I used to work on the same floor as the engaged daughter who broke her legs when she jumped. Yet the tragedy and pain is so fresh, it even hurts me, who is not related them. This year, my oven got a gas leak and we had nissim that we didnt have a fire. I chose to buy a new one at my own expense for $450 because I was so scared to have it repaired. When the installer came, I asked him about 80 times if it was safely installed, that I was so scared of a fire. as a matter of fact for the past few years since I started cooking pesach on my own I did so on 2 electric burners because since this story I have such a primal fear of using a gas stove that has been connected by an amateur special for pesach. This story left scars on so many people. It's so, so beyond sad there are no words. Their daughter who lost a child too, was a kimpeturin at that time, a time when one's nerves are weak to begin with. I cannot, and do not want to, imagine the ache they still live with daily. May HaShem comfort them.

11

 Apr 12, 2009 at 03:27 AM Ahem Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

what's the point of opening up old wounds??

The wound never becomes old for those who have suffered it. They might come to a place of peace and acceptance, but it's never old.

12

 Apr 12, 2009 at 02:40 AM 1st Responder Says:

WHY DON'T THEY PUT LETTERING ON ALL SIDES OF BUILDINGS?!?!? It's very confusing, Such a small thing could cost so many lives... Why don't the residents get together and demand it? It's beyond me... This is straight out negligence.

13

 Apr 12, 2009 at 02:19 AM Anonymous Says:


The matyas' are special chushiva people,(lived near them for years)hashem should give them strength !!and kraus management are rashuyim,(thier teeth should be knocked out)let them pay 100 mill maybe like that they will learn their lesson!

14

 Apr 12, 2009 at 01:10 AM Anonymous Says:

t reason for opening now t old wounds is part of t PR in t suit t way lawyers make a good and big case

15

 Apr 12, 2009 at 01:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Mony can't heal the wound but it's for sure a good bandaid

16

 Apr 12, 2009 at 10:34 AM Anonymous Says:

Is there any alternative to leaving the stove on overnight for shabbat and yom tov? I hate the idea of leaving a stove on while I sleep, and instead eat cold food on shabbat and yom tov. I live alone. With all the modern technology, one would think that there would be some halachlically permissable way to have hot food on shabbat and yom tov without keeping a stove on overnight.

17

 Apr 12, 2009 at 11:45 AM Anonymous Says:

Landlords pay so much money to management companies to manage their buildings.
Most management companies pocket the money and do almost nothing to upkeep the building. If the landlords would be aware of how much they're being ripped off, they would never tolerate this. I think that landlords should at least send out a survey four times a year and check to see if their tenants are satisfied with the management company.

18

 Apr 12, 2009 at 03:46 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

Is there any alternative to leaving the stove on overnight for shabbat and yom tov? I hate the idea of leaving a stove on while I sleep, and instead eat cold food on shabbat and yom tov. I live alone. With all the modern technology, one would think that there would be some halachlically permissable way to have hot food on shabbat and yom tov without keeping a stove on overnight.

...There is a technological way to control the ignition and supply valves of a stove by a timer. The only question is whether it is Halachically permissible on Shabbos. On Yom tov, there is no doubt that it is permissible!!!

19

 Apr 17, 2009 at 12:21 AM Fire Safety Says:

Almost all fire deaths are preventable, even this one. Just most people don't take the time to learn fire safety. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I haven't yet found anyone to take my course in the frum community.

20

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