FALL RIVER, Mass. (WHDH) – A woman was killed, her passenger was left critically injured, multiple firefighters were hospitalized and dozens of people were displaced after a car slammed into a Fall River apartment complex and sparked a blaze on Tuesday morning, officials said.
Hours after officials said the fire had been extinguished, the blaze flared again. Flames could be seen shooting from the roof of the Four Winds Apartments on North Main Street as firefighters doused them with water from a cherry picker attached to their truck.
Emergency crews responding to a reported car crash at the complex around 9:30 a.m. found a vehicle that had rammed into a laundry room area and ruptured a gas line, according to a spokesman for the Bristol District Attorney’s Office.
The driver, 72-year-old Judith Mauretti, of Fall River, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mauretti’s passenger, a 75-year-old Fall River woman, was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where she remains in critical condition. Her name has not been released.
Police believe Mauretti was speeding before she plowed 15 feet into the building, which was evacuated after the crash.
Resident Bill Driscoll said the building shook before flames quickly shot up to the roof.
“The building shook,” he said. “I went out in the hall to look and there was smoke. Then I looked out from the landing on the second floor and there was all black smoke.”
Four firefighters were taken from the scene and treated for heat-related injuries, Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch said.
An estimated 45 people were displaced by the fire. The Red Cross is assisting.
Deb Steele told 7News that she had just gotten up to make her coffee when she heard a loud explosion and checked the laundry room.
“I (saw) flames and smoke come from under the door, and I heard a car horn blowing, so I figured a car went through,” she said. “So I woke my husband up to get out.”
High winds made fighting the fire more difficult, and hours after the initial crash, flames could still be seen shooting out of the top of the roof. A part of the building’s roof collapsed.
There was no working sprinkler system in the building, according to investigators. More than 100 firefighters eventually extinguished the blaze after about three hours.
No one inside was injured.
But the fire started back up again around 9 p.m. as crews were monitoring hot spots. Roaring flames could be seen shooting into the night.
It’s not clear if residents will be able to return to their homes due to the concern of a complete collapse.
Several apartments in the 36-unit building were badly damaged.
“We have collapsed floors, collapsed ceilings, and walls that have given in,” Lynch said.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
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