Elderly couple die in luxury Manhattan high-rise blaze

NEW YORK – An elderly Manhattan couple died in a blaze that engulfed their luxury high-rise apartment before dawn Saturday and sent flames roaring out the windows.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that cigarette smoking in bed may have caused the fire at the famed River House co-op on East 52nd Street.

Fire officials say 85-year-old Mary Merow was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 89-year-old husband, John Merow, was rushed to Weill Cornell Medical Center but died of his injuries. Three firefighters were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

The fire started just after 5 a.m. in the couple’s ninth-floor apartment, filling its dozen or so rooms with smoke. Officials say Mary Merow was found unresponsive, with severe burns.

The cause of the blaze at the Art Deco building overlooking the FDR Drive and the East River is under investigation.

The palatial River House complex was built in 1931, with a 26-story tower and two 15-story wings. It’s been home to notable residents including Henry Kissinger, Uma Thurman and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. Current prices for apartments range from about $3 million to $14 million, according to the Street Easy real estate database.

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