A fire in an apartment building in Bronx, New York City has killed an entire Ghanaian family. The fire which killed 12 people including four children on Thursday night was caused by a child playing with a stove, authorities said, as New Yorkers absorbed horrific details from the city’s worst single loss of life from a fire since the 9/11 attacks.
The flames spread quickly through the kitchen of a first-floor apartment then roared through a door the three-year-old boy’s mother left open as she fled with her two children, New York fire commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
“We were told the boy had a history of playing with the burners and turning them on, and before the mother knew it this fire had gotten a good hold of the kitchen,” Nigro said.
A stairwell acted like a chimney, carrying the flames through the entire five-storey building within minutes and blocking the main escape route.
Many of the victims’ bodies’ were found in the stairwell and probably died in the three and a half minutes between the first calls to emergency services and the arrival of fire trucks at the 100-year-old apartment block.
“People had very little time to react and they couldn’t get back down,” Nigro said. “Of those that tried, a few of them perished. Most of the deaths occurred pretty early, some of them before we could arrive.”
One family lost four members: Karen Stewart-Francis; her daughters, two-year-old Kiley Francis and seven-year-old Kelly Francis; and their cousin, 19-year-old Shawntay Young, relatives said. Stewart-Francis’ husband, Holt Francis, was hospitalized, the family said.
New York City police on Saturday released the names of seven more victims killed in a fast-moving fire in the Bronx that killed 12 people, including a 7-month-old baby and a teenage girl. The victims are
- Emmanuel Mensah, 28;
- Solomon Donkor, 54;
- Hannah Donkor, 17;
- Willam Donkor;
- Gabriel Yaw Sarkookie, 48;
- Shantay Young, 19;
- Karen Francis, 37;
- Kylie Francis, 2;
- Justice Opuku, 54;
- Charmela Francis, 7;
- Maria Batiz, 58;
- Amora Batiz, who was 7-months old.
The 26-unit apartment building was required to have self-closing doors, which swing shut on their own to keep fires from spreading, city Housing Preservation and Development Department spokesman Matthew Creegan said. Investigators will look at whether the door to the apartment was defective or if an obstruction prevented it from closing, he said.
De Blasio, the mayor, said there was “nothing problematic about the building that contributed to this tragedy.”
Excluding 9/11, Thursday’s fire was the city’s deadliest since 87 people were killed at a social club in the same Bronx neighbourhood in 1990, the Associated Press reported. A fire in a home in another part of the Bronx killed 10 people, including nine children, in 2007.