The FDNY says that 12 people have been killed, including five children, after a blaze ripped through a Bronx apartment building on the night of December 28. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a press conference that the fire was started when a 3-year-old boy, who had a history of playing with stoves, turned on the fire burner. The boy’s mother escaped from their first floor apartment with the 3-year-old and another 2-year-old who was in the apartment. Commissioner Nigro said that because the woman had left her door open, the fire spread quickly through the building up the exposed staircase.
The building is located close to the Bronx Zoo on Prospect Avenue near East 187 Street. Mayor Bill De Blasio referred to the fire as an “unspeakable tragedy.”
Of the 12 people who were killed, there are seven women and five men. Over 170 firefighters battled the worst fire tragedy in New York City in 25 years. If you are concerned about the well-being of a loved one, please call 311 or if you are outside of the New York City, call 212-639-9675.
These are the victims we know so far:
The Francis/Stewart Family
A woman named Elain Williams, told the New York Post that her two nieces, Kylie, 2, and Kelesha, 7, had died in the fire along with their mother, Karen, who is Williams’ sister. Williams also lost her daughter, Shawntay Young, 19. The New York Times reports that the family is of Jamaican origin and that 13 of them lived in the same building. Ambrozia Stewart, who is Karen’s mother, told the Times, “I don’t know what to do and I don’t know how to feel. I need somebody to tell me what to feel. Where do I go from here? Four at one time — what do I do?”
Karen Stewart’s husband, Holt Francis, is in a coma at Jacobi Medical Center, reports the Times. That report adds that the family moved into the apartment in late 2016. The same article says that Ambrozia Stewart emigrated from Jamaica in the 1980s and that in 2004, 19 of her family followed.
According to Shawntay Young’s Facebook page, she was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica. In her intro section, Young says she is “19 and humble.” The New York Times says that Young lived in a basement apartment in the building.
One friend, Nicole Brooks, paid a tragic tribute to Young on Facebook writing, “Just a day ago I was on ft with you I don’t know how to feel words can’t explain how I miss this girl already my cousin is no longer here never thought I would be saying this she was like my sister I tell her everything now I can’t this is breaking my heart we had plans to see each other soon now I can’t but I’ll see you soon I’ll keep holding it down for you I’ll never move on from this.”
Young’s mother told the New York Post that her daughter was upstairs in Karen Stewart’s home when the fire started.
ABC New York reports that Maria Batiz who was 56 years old was one of those killed. The station adds that Batiz’s granddaughter, Amora Vidal, who was 8 months old, has also perished. The pair were found together in the bathtub of a studio apartment. The baby’s mother, Batiz’s daughter, Christine, was injured and remains in New York City hospital. A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the family through this difficult time.
Fernando Batiz told the New York Post, “I’m in shock. I feel, like numb… I’m just number right now. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do.” He added that his sister was a “great, great person…she was a fun person, a happy person… loved the baby… caring.”
Speaking to the Daily News, Fernando Batiz’s said that his sister screamed, “We’re going to die in here!” in a phone call with her daughter as the fire took hold. He continued, “My niece was telling her, ‘Get out! What are you doing?’ I guess (Maria) was hysterical, and she got trapped. She was scared. She said, ‘We’re going to die in here! She was frantic. I guess the smoke overcame her.”
New York 1’s Myles Miller was the first to report that Emmanuel Mensah, 28, was killed after his father reported him missing after the fire. Mensah’s father, Kwabena, told the Daily News that his son had “came home from the Army about a week ago for the holidays.” He was 28 years old. Kwabena continued, “He was telling the roommate to not come out of the apartment because there was smoke. But when they rescued everyone from the windows, we couldn’t find him. I went to four hospitals, I can’t find him.”