Staten Island, NY – Shoddy work blamed for filling home
with deadly carbon monoxide
BY NANCY DILLON, AUSTIN FENNER and DAVE GOLDINER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Albanian pop singer Anita Bitri and 8-year-old daughter Sibora Prapaniku were killed along with Bitri’s mother by carbon monoxide poisoning at their Staten Island home.
Inspectors examine concrete deck construction job, where a plastic sheet was blamed for covering a vent, allowing carbon monoxide to build up in Ocean Ave., Staten Island, home.
Enghellushe Hassan Beliu reacts to news that her sister, niece and niece’s daughter were all found dead yesterday.
A vent left covered by sloppy construction workers unleashed the deadly carbon monoxide cloud that stole the breath of a popular Albanian singer, her 8-year-old daughter and mother in their Staten Island home yesterday, authorities said.
There also was no carbon monoxide detector to wake up Anita Bitri, 36, her 66-year-old mother, Azbije, and daughter, Sibora Prapaniku, who were tragically killed in their sleep by the invisible, odorless gas.
“We lost a good friend, a great artist and a good Albanian,” Gani Blakaj, 47, of the Bronx, said of Bitri, a dark-haired beauty who was known as the Celine Dion of her Balkan homeland.
Firefighters said workers installing a concrete deck blocked exhaust vents for the boiler with plastic sheeting, sending poison gas spewing through the home on Ocean Ave. in South Beach.
Investigators were hunting last night for the contractor who did the shoddy work, said Chief Fire Marshal Louis Garcia.
The deadly gas spiked to a frightening 70 times acceptable levels in the second-floor room where the victims were found.
“At those numbers, a few breaths and you could be unconscious,” said Chief Thomas Haring, the FDNY’s borough commander for Staten Island. “Carbon monoxide is silent, but it is deadly.”
A new city law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in every home goes into effect on Nov. 1. But Bitri’s home was not equipped with the lifesaving devices.
A boyfriend found the bodies when he arrived at the house around 8:40 a.m. and called 911.
Word of the tragedy quickly spread through the tight-knit Albanian community, where dozens of musicians played with Bitri since she arrived in the U.S. eight years ago.
Neighbors said Bitri was renovating the pink stucco home and brought her mother from Albania to care for her daughter, whose father recently died from cancer.
With Lisa Fleisher and Michele McPhee
Fatal gas has struck before
You can’t smell or see it, but carbon monoxide kills an estimated 2,000 Americans every year.
In the past year alone, the silent killer felled a devoted 9/11 fund-raiser and his 9-year-old daughter in their Bronx home, two tenants in their Murray Hill apartment and three members of a Bronx family.
Last Nov. 21, the fumes claimed three generations of the Williams inside their Popham Ave., Bronx, apartment a week before Thanksgiving Day.
With the electricity cut off for nonpayment, the family used a portable gas heater for warmth, but it spread the carbon monoxide gas and knocked out the entire family.
Patrick Williams, 26; his 2-month-old daughter, Patricia Williams, and his mother-in-law, Erna Dennis, 54, all died.
Two months later, the city mourned the loss of a devoted civic activist who died when the gas nearly wiped out his entire family in his Woodlawn, Bronx, home.
Martin Duffy, 36, and his daughter, Hannah Duffy, 9, died and his wife and son barely survived after a faulty boiler spewed fumes into their home on the evening of Jan. 14.
Duffy worked for the the Silver Shield Foundation, a charity for the children of fallen firefighters and cops that was especially active after the terror attacks claimed so many of New York’s Finest and Bravest.
A month later, the deadly menace struck in tony Murray Hill.
Retired airline executive Harvey Needleman, 67, and Joaquin Polanco, 40, were relaxing inside their sixth-floor apartment at 555 Third Ave. when the gas started to spread on Feb. 16.
Neighbors started feeling nauseated, but by the time rescuers arrived, it was too late to save Needleman and Polanco.