KEW GARDEN HILLS (WPIX)—The female construction worker, who died in a Queens apartment fire early Sunday morning, was due in court Monday to testify in a sexual harassment case against her former employer and a major bank.
Firefighters responded to the fatal two-alarm fire that tore through Bianca Kuros' fifth floor apartment in the Pomonok Houses at 156-07 71st Avenue in Kew Garden Hills at about 3:15 a.m.
Kuros, 44, filed her $20 million lawsuit against her firm Total Safety Consulting and JPMorgan Chase in July. She served as safety coordinator for JP Morgan Chase's construction site at 270 Park Avenue in 2007, and claimed she was harassed, groped and propositioned by an elevator operator at the site.
When she complained about her work conditions, she was removed from her position and fired from the New Jersey firm. She was set to testify in court Monday.
In the home at the time of the fire were Kuros, her 16-year-old daughter Olivia and two male relatives, ages 50 and 52. The relatives' names were not immediately released.
Demetric Bowman, an upstairs neighbor, and her son Tyriek, 14, reported the fire some time after 2 a.m. when they smelled smoke and peered out their windows to confirm the smoke was coming from the floor below them.
Bowman, a mother of three, ran downstairs to try to wake her neighbors.
"I went to the neighbors door and I'm knocking on the door but the door was hot," Bowman told PIX News. "There was smoke coming out and I knew it was pretty bad."
But the constant banging on her neighbor's door was to no avail. They were found unconscious when firefighters rescued them from the flames.
Firefighters' response was slowed when they arrived around the corner of the burning apartment building, after a 911 dispatcher gave them the wrong address. The confusion is under investigation.
Kuros was rushed to New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, where she was pronounced dead. The other three victims were transferred to the Bronx's Jacobi Medical Center's burn unit, where they are listed in critical but stable condition.
Kuros' other daughter, 18-year-old Nicole, was not home at the time of the fire.
It took over an hour and more than 100 firefighters to extinguish the flames. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The fire is still under investigation but preliminary reports state the blaze was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet.
Although the FDNY has not ruled the house fire suspicious, Kuros' boyfriend and neighbors believe foul play was involved.
Bogdon Balamut, the victim's boyfriend, said Kuros told him that she had been receiving strange phone calls.
"How does a fire start the day before? It just doesn't sound too right to me," local resident Phil Brown told PIX News.
PIX News has also learned that Kuros' smoke detector was dismantled and left on her dining room table.
Bowden described her neighbor as a happy and responsible person.
"[She was a] very outgoing, jubilant person. Always smiling, always happy," Bowden told PIX News. "I know she was taking care of her parents and she took care of her daughters also."
Kuros was a Polish immigrant, who worked in construction to serve as an example to her daughers that a woman could succeed in a male-dominated industry.
Calls to Kuros' attorney Steven L. Wittels about what will happen to her case were not immediately returned.
Kuros filed the lawsuit under her maiden name Wisniewski.