What to Know
- Five people died, including four children, in New York City's deadliest fire since 2015, when seven kids were killed
- The blaze broke out Sunday afternoon in Queens Village; by the time the flames were out, only a charred structure remained
- There is no immediate theory as to what sparked the blaze, but investigators are searching for clues
Authorities have revealed the identities of the five people killed in a fast-moving fire that consumed a two-story home in Queens over the weekend, trapping at least two victims in an attic as desperate firefighters launched what one official described as a "super-human" effort to save them.
Chayce Lipford, 2, Rashawn Matthews, 9, Jady Foxworth, 17, Destiny Vickers, 21 and Melody Edwards, 17, were killed in the blaze that devoured the home on 208th Street in Queens Village Sunday afternoon, FDNY officials said.
The first four victims were related, according to authorities, though the exact details of those relationships remain under investigation. Edwards was a friend who happened to be at the home at the time the flames broke out.
"She loved school, she loved college, that was all she talk about," said Edwards' father, Glenn Edwards. "When I was in Florida, she said, 'Oh, it's time to go to college.' That's all she was aiming for, was to go to college. She wanted to be a lawyer."
No possible cause for the blaze has been released, and investigators scoured the scene overnight into Monday in search of clues. A burned-out car was found nearby, but Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Monday investigators don't believe that ignited the house. No working smoke detectors were found in the home, authorities said.
Nigro said a passing motorist saw someone tumble from a window as smoke billowed from the structure, and that motorist called the fire department. The man who tumbled from the window, believed to be in his 40s, fell onto a porch roof, then rolled onto a lawn, Nigro said. He is the lone survivor; authorities believe he may be the father of the dead toddler.
Neighbor Benjamin Gordon said he and his wife Carletta saw the man pacing on the burning roof when they rushed over to help, and helped him jump down to escape the fire.
"We're like, 'jump, jump, jump,'" said Gordon. "Falls into the guy's arms. We grab him, and he's like 'The kids, the kids!' And we start looking around."
The wood-frame home burned rapidly and was already engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived around 2:30 p.m. Sunday. They struggled to reach some of the victims who were as high up as the attic, a "super-human" task for firefighters to reach people in a home engulfed by such a massive fire, Nigro said. They managed to bring the toddler and someone else from the attic where they had been trapped, he said. But they couldn't be saved.
"It was a fire that moved very, very quickly, and the loss was horrendous," Mayor de Blasio said Sunday. "This is the devastation of a family."
"Our job now is to get down to the bottom of what happened and do everything we can to make sure that no family ever suffers like this again," he added in a tweet.
A neighboring home also caught fire and was badly damaged, but no one was inside at the time. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries; no one else was hurt.
Neighbor Dorothy Murray told reporters that when she looked out her door and saw the fire, "I could have fainted."
"The fire was so intense - there's no way in the world nobody could go over there to save nobody," said Murray.
She said she babysat sometimes for one of the children -- "cute little fellow," she said. "He's adorable."
Sunday's fire was the deadliest in the nation's biggest city since March 2015, when a house fire in Brooklyn touched off by a hot plate killed seven children, all siblings.
The Red Cross responded and provided emergency housing to one adult. They planned to return Monday to offer additional assistance if needed.