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CRIME CLASSIFICATION: 10 – 5 Fire Investigation INCIDENT NUMBER: 10 – 24722

REPORTING OFFICER: Det. K. Farrelly D39/1866 DATE OF INCIDENT: 07/07/10



INCIDENT 10-24722

On 07/07/10 at approximately 1425, White Plains Police dispatchers received numerous 911 calls
from employees from the “Latin American Café,” the “Bengal Tiger” restaurant, and from multiple alarm
companies reporting a fire in the area of 141 E. Post Rd. Both businesses were occupants of a larger single
floor building owned and managed by Boston Post Properties Inc. All businesses in this building shared a
common corridor in the basement and a common cockloft in the roof. White Plains Police dispatchers
notified the White Plains Fire Department, and WPFD Engine 70 and Ladder 32 were dispatched to the
area of 141 E. Post Rd.

WPFD personnel arrived on scene at 141 E. Post Rd. at 1433 and reported no visible smoke at that
time. Dispatchers redirected fire personnel to 144 E. Post Rd., who then arrived on scene at 1435. Upon
arrival, WPFD advised dispatchers of smoke emanating from the rear of the structure, and WPFD Engine
65 and Engine 67 were dispatched to the scene as well. At 1437, WPFD Engine 70 personnel reported
observing an active fire and flames in the basement of the structure. At 1439, WPFD personnel entered
the structure with water lines and began fighting the fire from inside of the building. Additional fire
personnel began fighting the fire from the exterior of the structure. By 1447, WPFD Chief Lyman
requested mutual aid, asking for additional fire departments to respond to White Plains to assist with fire
fighting operations. By 1450, WPFD personnel reported that the structural integrity of the floor inside of
144 E. Post Rd. was compromised, and WPFD supervisors ordered all personnel to withdraw from the
interior of the structure. The entire interior of this restaurant was completely engulfed in flames shortly

White Plains Fire Department personnel along with fire personnel from numerous neighboring fire
districts continued to fight the fire in 144 E. Post Rd. from the exterior for the next several hours. During
the initial phases of the fire, the flames appeared to have caught the wall in the northeast corner of the
Bengal Tiger restaurant basement and traveled upwards on the restaurants walls toward the roof. Once in
the roof, the fire traveled into the common cockloft of the building, and quickly spread across the roof to
the other stores in the building. The fire then burned downward from the roof into the main floor area of
these businesses, eventually engulfing each of these businesses as well. By approximately 2039, the
approximately 60 fire personnel on scene had gained control of the fire. It took several more hours of
battling the fire from the exterior before the fire was officially declared knocked down. Upon the
conclusion of fire fighting operations, seven businesses had been destroyed by the fire. A fire watch was
maintained on the scene for the rest of the night and the following day by WPFD. WPPD personnel
remained on scene as well for a crime scene watch.

On 07/07/10 a fire investigation team was formed consisting of Lt. Heffernan, Lt. Manganello, Lt.
Casarella, Lt. Scapperotti, Lt. Blaine, and Fire Fighter Birittieri from the White Plains Fire Department
along with Lt. Fischer, Sgt. Doherty, and I, Det. Farrelly from the White Plains Police Department to
investigate the incident. The initial phase of the investigation consisted of obtaining witness statements
from employees of the Bengal Tiger and Latin American Café, along with WPFD fire personnel, and the
owner of the Bengal Tiger, Simson M. Kalathara (M/A, 12/19/40). Over the next several days, WPPD
detectives conducted ten interviews of employees who were on scene that day. During these initial
interviews, employees of the Latin American café reported seeing smoke in the basement of the building at
1415, approximately 9 minutes before the initial 911 call. Numerous statements confirmed that Bengal
Tiger personnel discovered the smoldering bags of charcoal in the basement and attempted to put it out
themselves before calling for Fire Department assistance.

On 07/08/10, the investigation into the fire scene was begun by the fire investigation team. Initial
phases of this portion of the investigation consisted of observation and photography of the exterior
portions of the structure. With the assistance of the Westchester County Police aviation unit, aerial
photos of the scene were obtained as well. An initial scan of the scene revealed extensive fire damage.
The fire appeared to have burned hot enough to deform several of the 12” thick steel I-beams in the roof of
the building. A large portion of the contents of the building were burned beyond recognition.

Throughout the day on 07/08/10 and 07/09/10, numerous structural engineers and representatives
from the White Plains Building Department and Public Works Department examined the scene as well.
Building department personnel determined that the building was not structurally sound and not fit for
human occupancy. Representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Building Department, Public Works
Department, and Department of Public Safety ultimately determined the front façade of the building
would have to be removed, as it posed an immediate threat to the safety of the public.

On 07/10/10, Capital Waste Services was contracted by the city to remove the front façade of business,
along with the front portion of the store. All debris from this portion of the building was transported in
separate dumpsters to the White Plains City Dump at 85 Gedney Way, where they were dumped in
individual piles in a specially designated portion of the dump. After this front façade and front portion of
the business had been removed, Building Department personnel determined that the structure was still not
safe for human occupancy, and all police and fire personnel were forbidden to enter the scene.

On 07/11/10, White Plains Water Department supervisors determined that during the course of the
fire, a water line leading into 144 E. Post Rd. had broken, and had been pouring water into the scene since
07/07/10. Water Department personnel were eventually able to close a water valve under E. Post Rd.
and stop the water flow into the scene. Once the water flow was terminated, investigators determined that
there was approximately six to seven feet of standing water in the basement of the businesses affected by
the fire. The Water Department and Fire Department set up pumps and began draining the water from
the scene. The pumps were run for approximately 14 hours, and the majority of the water was removed
from the scene. Once the water had been removed, it became visible that there was approximately two
feet of debris on the floor of the basement of the affected businesses.

On 07/13/10, representatives from Boston Post Properties met with White Plains Building
Department, Public Works Department, and Mayor’s Office regarding the status of the building.
Engineers from the Building Department determined that the structure was not safe for human occupancy,

and recommended that the entire building be razed. Boston Post Properties was given until 07/15/10 to
begin demolition. On 07/15/10 at 1100, Capital Waste Services began the complete demolition process
of the building, beginning at the Court St. side of the structure and working their way eastbound towards
the Bengal Tiger portion of the building. WPFD personnel and I, Det. Farrelly, were on scene for all
portions of the demolition to monitor for any potential evidence. Extensive photographs were taken daily
to document the progress of the demolition. As demolition of the site continued, a Police Officer was
posted at the site 24 hours a day to maintain crime scene security.

On 07/20/10, the demolition of the building had reached the portion of the structure that contained the
Bengal Grocery Store. As debris was being removed from this portion of the building, it was
systematically removed, placed in separate dumpsters, and removed to 85 Gedney Way for safekeeping.
At this point, it was determined that investigators could enter the scene with proper safety equipment.
Investigators were able to explore the basement portion of the Bengal Grocery Store and Bengal Tiger
Restaurant, where we discovered extensive fire damage. The remaining portion of the floor in the grocery
store and restaurant showed extensive fire damage on the underside, while there was superficial fire
damage to the wood on the top side, indicating that the fire generated substantially more heat in the
basement portion of the building below the floor. Further examination of the basement portion revealed a
distinctive “V” shaped burn pattern on the cinder block wall near one of the storage areas in the northwest
corner of the Bengal Tiger Restaurant basement, indicating a potential point of origin of the fire. As per
the fire department report, the cement skim coat on the wall in this section of the basement had spalled.
In this portion of the basement, the solder on the joints on sewer pipes running through this portion was
completely melted away, further indicating higher levels of heat in this section.

On 07/23/10, an accelerant detecting K9 handled by Capt. Gus Spedaliere of the Greenville Fire
District was brought in to examine the scene. After a thorough examination of the scene, the K9 indicated
on two spots in a storage area in the basement underneath the dining room portion of the Bengal Tiger.
Samples were obtained from these two locations on 07/26/10, which were later transported to the
Westchester County Crime Laboratory for analysis.

On 07/26/10, excavation on the Bengal Tiger Restaurant portion of the building resumed. Again,
debris from this portion of the building was systematically removed, placed in separate dumpsters, and
removed to 85 Gedney Way for safekeeping. All of the electrical fuse boxes, electrical panels, and other
electrical components were removed from the scene, examined by investigators, and removed to 85
Gedney Way for safekeeping. As demolition reached the storage area of the basement, we ordered
Capital Waste Services personnel to temporarily cease using heavy equipment, and WPFD investigators
and I began removing debris from basement using shovels and hand tools. We began sifting through the
approximately 2 feet of debris on the basement floor. Any items deemed as potential evidence were
removed from the pile, photographed, and eventually removed to 85 Gedney Way. Later that afternoon,
Capt. Spedaliere returned to the scene with his K9 and reexamined the scene. The K9 again indicated on
three locations in the storage area of the basement. Samples from these locations were obtained and
eventually transported to the Westchester County Crime Laboratory for processing.

While the demolition and excavation processes were continuing, WPPD Detectives continued to
conduct second, third, and fourth interviews of several of the employees of the Bengal Tiger regarding the
events of 07/07/10. Some of the employees were brought back to the scene of the incident during the
demolition process to help investigators reconstruct the layout of the basement and determine the layout
and configuration of the basement and its storage areas. During these interviews, WPPD utilized

translators speaking Hindi, Spanish, and Creole, which were all dialects spoken by employees of the
businesses in the building, to properly obtain the full story of what occurred that day. Employees were
adamant that no food preparation or cooking ever occurred in the basement.

Throughout these interviews, several employees admitted to locating smoldering bags of charcoal near
the boiler room portion of the basement, which they attempted to pour water on and extinguish.
Employees stated that this charcoal was regularly stored in the basement and was used to cook Tandoori
chicken and bread. Through research, investigators determined that wood charcoal is susceptible to
spontaneous ignition when wet. A search of the fire scene located the remnants of between ten and twenty
bags of wood charcoal stacked in piles three or four bags high. The physical arrangement and mass of the
charcoal are important factors affecting spontaneous ignition. On the date of this incident, the White
Plains area was in the middle of a record breaking heat wave with temperatures in the high 90s and low
100s for multiple days straight. This could also have contributed to an increase in the ambient temperature
of the charcoal along with the charcoal’s location near the boiler room. If appropriate circumstances
existed in the basement, ignition of the charcoal may have been possible. However the location where this
charcoal was located was approximately twenty feet away from the storage area in the basement where the
greatest fire damage was located.

As further interviews were being conducted, a complete financial background check of Kalathara was
conducted. This search revealed that on 04/09/03, Kalathara filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection
on behalf of the Bengal Tiger in United States Federal Court (New York Southern District – White
Plains). Kalathara and Bengal Tiger had seven total (State and Federal) active Tax Liens on the business
at the time of the incident for over $300,000. On 10/27/08, Kalathara filed with Federal Court in White
Plains to have this bankruptcy converted to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and on 06/17/10, the status of the case
was officially changed to Chapter 7. Mark S. Tulis Esq. was appointed by the Federal Magistrate
handling the case to be the Trustee for the business. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the liquidation phase of
bankruptcy, and all assets of the business are dissolved and awarded to creditors. As a result of this, any
insurance money obtained from this fire would immediately go to creditors, and there would be no
financial gain for Kalathara resulting from this fire.

On 07/28/10, examination of the scene continued. All wiring and fixtures in the storage area of the
basement were examined, and all appeared to be intact. Investigators were able to rule out electrical
components as an ignition source in this portion of the basement. All fixtures and outlets from this
portion were saved as evidence, and the wiring in this portion was labeled for future examination. The
kitchen portion of the restaurant sat on top of a 2 to 3 foot crawlspace. Building department
representatives determined that this portion of the building posed a high risk of collapse, and so
investigators were not permitted to enter this portion of the scene. Capital Waste personnel continued the
demolition of this portion of the building with a backhoe, while WPFD investigators and I monitored and
photographed the progress.

On 07/29/10, the last pieces of evidence were collected from the scene. All of these items were placed
in a separate 10 Yard dumpster provided by Capital Waste, and they were then transported to the
designated area at 85 Gedney Way. I escorted this evidence to the dump, advised the driver where to
place it, and took numerous photographs of if once it was laid out. I then returned back to the fire scene
and again met with WPFD investigators. At 1504 on 07/29/10, WPFD investigators and I determined
that our examination of the scene was complete, and we released the scene to the custody of Boston Post
Properties representatives.

On 09/08/10, I received notice from the Westchester County Department of Laboratories that the
results from the seven samples that I had transported to the lab for processing were complete. These
samples were examined for the presence of ignitable liquid residue. After conducting numerous tests on
all of the samples, lab technicians deemed the samples inconclusive for the presence or absence of any
ignitable liquids.


At the conclusion of this investigation, all witness statements, initial observations of responding
firefighters, and physical evidence obtained at the scene, point towards the origin of the fire being in the
basement of the restaurant. Physical evidence specifically indicates the highest sources of heat coming
from the storage area in the basement. There were extremely large amounts of fire damage in the
basement portion of the business. This portion of the building sat in several feet of standing water for
approximately 6 days, compromising the integrity of any evidence at the scene. Investigators were not
able to safely enter the actual location of origin until 13 days after the fire occurred. As a result of this
damage, the standing water, and the 13 day delay in examining the scene, it was difficult to locate the
exact point of origin or ignition source of the fire. The charcoal located in the basement that was observed
by witnesses burning may have been a possible source of ignition, however this fact could not be
confirmed. Several factors for the cause of the fire have been ruled out, however the exact cause of the fire
is undetermined at this time and no criminal activity has been proven.


Det. K. Farrelly D39/1866

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