By Michael V. Cusenza
The case against a Yonkers contractor who had been charged with sparking a massive fire in Elmhurst last April has been dismissed, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced last month.
Declan McElhatton, 53, was arraigned on a criminal complaint charging him with fourth-degree arson, second-degree reckless endangerment, and a violation of the fire code.
“After a lengthy investigation at this time we do not believe we are able to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Assistant District Attorney Charissa Ilardi, according to the Jackson Heights Post.
The five-alarm blaze injured 11 firefighters and left 175 people homeless after it gutted 112 apartments in the six-story building on 94th Street.
According to the original complaint, the doomed building’s construction manager contracted McElhatton to repair the roof. The manager indicated to City fire marshals that the materials that were to be used to repair the roof were “all designed to be applied cold, without the use of heat.” However, according to the complaint, a firefighter said he recovered two propane tanks from the roof. And a man who works for McElhatton told authorities that he had been instructed by his boss to recover a torch and the propane tanks from the building’s storage area, and worked on the roof “using said items.”
The FDNY said that “based upon his training and experience, the above mentioned use of the torch on the roof caused said fire.”