The deadly blaze that erupted in a Bronx apartment has claimed the lives of 17 people. New York City police released the names of all of the victims. Two-year-old Ousmane Konteh has been declared as the youngest victim of the fire.
Medical examiners determined that all of the victims died of smoke inhalation. Among the 17 confirmed deaths, 8 are children. Many of the victims are immigrants from the same area of Gambia and several families suffered multiple deaths.
Five members of one family perished in the fire: Haji Dukuray, 49, his wife, Haja Dukureh, 37, and their children, Mstapha Dukureh, 12, Mariam Dukureh, 12, and Fatoumata Dukureh, 5.
Four members of the Drammeh family were also killed in the blaze: Fatoumata, 50, Foutmala, 21, Muhammed, 12, and Nyumaaisha, 19.
Tunkara, a 43-year-old mother, and one of her five children, 6-year-old Omar Jambang, were identified among the victims.
Sera Janneh who was a 27-year-old student at Lehman College. At just 5 years old, Mahamadou is among the youngest victims of the blaze.
Police identified Toure, 12, an eighth-grader, as one of those who perished in the inferno. Hagi Jawara, 47, and his wife, 31-year-old Isatou Jabbie, leave behind four children.
35 people are still in the hospital, battling life-threatening injuries, 37 are being treated and are expected to recover.
The 19-story residential building situated in the Bronx caught fire early Sunday morning. About 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street at around 11 a.m.
A malfunctioning space heater has been cited as the cause of the fire. Officials say that the fire quickly expanded because a door in the two-level second-floor unit where the blaze started was either left open or did not automatically close after residents fled, he said.
The Red Cross is assisting at least 53 families that were displaced by the blaze, providing housing for 34 of those families.
When the fire broke out the fire alert alarms are said to have been triggered.
A spokesperson for Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, said “There are no known issues with the smoke alarms and it appears the fire alarm system worked as designed”.
Some residents said they initially ignored wailing smoke alarms because false alarms were very common in the 120-unit building.
Investigators said the fire, triggered by the electric heater, started in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-story building.
New York City Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said, “The building, which was built in 1972 under the auspices of the federal government, did not have fire escapes, only internal stairwells.” Because of its federal origins he said, “it was potentially built outside the New York City fire code.”
Mayor Eric Adams, on only his second weekend in office, said the fire was likely to be the city’s worst blaze since the Happyland fire in 1990.
Adams said at a news conference that many residents were originally from the West African nation of Gambia. Many survivors were brought to temporary shelter in a nearby school.
Residents who managed to escape the building broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under doors as smoke rose from a lower-floor apartment where the fire started.
Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Some could not escape because of the volume of smoke.
Displaced residents will be placed in hotels until it is decided it is safe for them to return to their homes, said Christina Farrell, first deputy commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department. “If people are ultimately not able to go back into their apartments, we will work with [the Department of Housing Preservation and Development], with the state and other resources to get people the long-term housing that they need,” she added.
On Tuesday, dozens gathered outside the building to mourn and grieve for those lost, as well as pray for those still recovering and those who were impacted by the fire. Local leaders passed out candles, as the broken community tried to pull itself back together once again.