Image credit to Yeshiva World News
By Mahenau Leghari
A vigil was held on Thursday to remember and honour the family of six killed in an apartment fire last Wednesday (May 8). The police received a call reporting the fire at around 1:40 a.m. in Harlem at the Frederick Samuel Houses in Harlem on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
Once firefighters extinguished the flames, officers on the scene discovered the six bodies in the apartment, according to the police.
The family consisted of a 45-year-old male, 33-year-old female, two girls aged at 11 and 6, and two boys aged at 8 and 3. In addition to the family, three others involved in the accident suffered from minor smoke inhalation and were taken to hospitals.
“This is a gut-wrenching moment for all of us. At this point, all signs point to a horrible, terrible accident,” said Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City.
Daniel Nigro, a fire commissioner, stated that the fire began on the kitchen stove and spread to every other room in the apartment. The kitchen was the closest to the front door, and the fire escapes were on the opposite side of the apartment, which is why the family was unable to escape.
One of the family’s neighbours, Eric Allen, who has lived in the apartment for over 10 years, said that he and his wife smelled smoke on early Wednesday. When Allen left the apartment to see what was happening, he saw that the floors above him on the opposite section of the building were on fire, and proceeded to evacuate his wife and children.
Most of the building’s tenants managed to escape the fire and were standing outside the building, even half-dressed, according to Allen. He also says he remembers seeing the family of six around the building often before the fire.
“When I [saw] them, they were always happy, and definitely polite. They were always polite,” Allen said about the children. “It could easily have been us in that apartment.”
Allen had lived with the family in the building for at least five years. “You would see the family come and go, and you’re not gonna see them anymore,” he said. “It’s such a horrific event, you can’t imagine anything like that.”
According to police, the cause of the fire is unknown, but there is no sign of criminality.