LARKSVILLE — An elderly woman died and her husband suffered burns trying to rescue her early Sunday morning in a fire that destroyed their Murray Street house.
The body of Florence Gosciewski was just inside the doorway that her husband, John, tried to enter before a neighbor pulled him away because of the flames and smoke.
John Gosciewski was listed in critical condition at the Lehigh Valley Hospital at Cedar Crest in Allentown, to where he was flown by helicopter.
Gosciewski pleaded for help from his next-door neighbor Stevin Zeske, who was returning from a night out with his wife around 1 a.m.
“When I came home he was right there on the front porch screaming,” Zeske said outside the charred ruins of the double-block house next to his.
Zeske recalled he ran up the steps and Gosciewski opened the door, burning his hand.
“She was on the left-hand side like 3 feet from the door,” Zeske said.
But despite being so close to her they had to turn back.
“It just got so hot I pulled him away,” Zeske said. “I said, ‘Come on, you got to go.’ ”
“That just broke my heart,” Zeske said.
The intensity of the fire melted the vinyl siding on Zeske’s house approximately 15 feet away. He and his family were told to leave as firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control. Firefighters returned later Sunday morning to wet down the ruins.
A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal was called to investigate the cause.
The block-long street between East State Street and West Luzerne Avenue was busy with cars and trucks Sunday afternoon as people drove by the fire scene. It’s an otherwise quiet street, Zeske said.
Zeske estimated the couple were in their 70s and lived in the house for decades. He would see John help his wife, who had trouble walking, up the steps. Zeske added he saw John more often than his wife, Florence.
But the image of his neighbor frantically seeking help remained with Zeske.
“His whole face was completely black,” Zeske said.