Updated: 10-13-2003 01:20:47 AM

Queens Teen Accused in Blaze That Claimed First Bravest Since 9/11



PHILIP MESSING, LORENA MONGELLI and HASANI GITTENS
Reprinted with Permission, The New York Post


The Queens teen accused of setting the blaze that led to the death of a beloved firefighter, had a flare for fires, law-enforcement sources said.

The family of Anthony Santiago, 16, was evicted from their Bronx home for "troublemaking" shortly after the Queens fire - and neighbors told investigators the teen was known for setting fires in the incinerator room.

Santiago was arrested Friday morning and remains in Rikers Island in lieu of $75,000 bail and is charged with two counts of arson in the Sept. 27 fire.

He is accused of setting fire to a pile of cardboard boxes after going to smoke a cigarette outside an apartment complex on 77th Avenue in Kew Gardens, officials said.

The young man was standing in an alley filled with garbage when he started lighting pieces of paper, setting the blaze, FDNY officials said.

Fire Marshals Michael Szewezuck and Lawrence Pliska finally caught up with the boy at another relative's home in Ozone Park late Thursday, where he was arrested and allegedly made a video confession.

Law-enforcement sources told The Post that Santiago's half-brother James, 19, and his sister, Cecilia, 24, also have rap sheets that include arson.

James O'Shea, 41, of Ladder Co. 127 in Queens helped put out the Kew Gardens fire, and complained that he wasn't feeling well afterwards, officials said.

He then went to his home in Holbrook, L.I., and died of heart attack.

Santiago is not being charged with murder or manslaughter because O'Shea had a history of heart disease and the Suffolk County medical examiner said he died of natural causes.

O'Shea, a 17-year veteran of the FDNY was the first of the Bravest to die in the line of duty since the 9/11 terror attacks.


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