A Derry woman whose New York apartment was gutted in a massive fire says she feels “blessed and lucky to be alive.”
Charlotte Coyle - a former model from Academy Road in the city - was asleep in her home in Astoria in Queens when the fire broke out on Tuesday morning.
Speaking from New York, where she’s currently staying with friends, Charlotte told the Sunday Journal she was horrified when she discovered the extent of the fire engulfing the building after a friend banged on her door to alert her.
“My friend Lara woke me up and said there was a fire. When I came out of my room the apartment was full of smoke. It was so thick. Lara was banging at other people’s doors too and luckily we all got out.
“The fire burned for ten hours. A restaurant across the street let us in. It was so scary watching nature eat our home,” she said.
Reassuring family and friends at home, Charlotte told the Sunday Journal she was fortunate to have escaped the blaze.
“I’m so so lucky to be alive. I lost everything, the only thing I have left are the pyjamas I was wearing. I just thank God that I’m safe and that my friends are safe.
“I have a great group of people around me here and I’m staying with friends at the moment.”
The fire made headlines all over New York where it was categorised as a “four alarm” meaning that 39 fire engines had to attend the scene.
A total of 168 firefighters fought the blaze which started at 7:19 a.m. on Tuesday morning. It took four hours to bring the fire under control after 14 firefighters suffered minor injuries. The cause of the fire is still under investigation although it has been speculated that a faulty boiler may have been the source.
Derry girl Charlotte said it was devastating to see her personal belongings destroyed.
“I can’t believe this happened. I’ve built up such a life for myself here but I know I’m lucky to be alive,” she said.