Local News

August 10, 2011

Toddler dies in Plattsburgh fire

PLATTSBURGH — A raging house fire claimed the life of a Plattsburgh toddler early Wednesday.

Firefighters and State Police were called to 2 Summer Drive in the Maple Pond Mobile Home Community at about 6 a.m. after Phillip Guastella and his girlfriend, Trina LaForest, smelled smoke inside the residence.

As District 3 and Beekmantown firefighters responded to the call, Guastella and LaForest were able to flee to safety with their 4-month-old infant, Lilly Ann Guastella.

But they were unable to save LaForest’s daughter, 22-month-old Tori O’Neil. The toddler died inside the home before crews were able to douse the flames.


District 3 Second Assistant Fire Chief Steve Fuller said he was the first emergency-responder to arrive.

“There was fire coming out of every window and door of the residence,” he said.

Fuller was told there was a toddler still inside.

One crew went in the door to the west to attempt to knock down the flames and conduct a search. They were driven back by the intense heat and flames. One firefighter fell through the buckling floor but escaped injury.

“There was so much flame and heat in there, no one inside was going to survive,” Fuller said.

Firefighters used two compressed air-foam systems to knock down the majority of the fire within minutes, he said.

They then found Tori in a bedroom.


Guastella said he and Laforest were sleeping in their bed when the fire started.

“Trina woke me up and said, ‘Hey honey, do you smell smoke?’”

Guastella told her he smelled a little smoke and looked out a window but didn’t see any.

“I opened the bedroom door, and the whole house was engulfed in smoke and flames,” he said.

Guastella said he smashed one of their bedroom windows and pretty much threw Trina and their dog out the window.

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