BRONX, NY --Two toddlers died in an accidental fire caused by burning incense after their mother went to a Laundromat, thinking there was someone at home to watch them, authorities said Thursday.
The fire started in the living room of the Bronx apartment on Webster Avenue in the Claremont section Wednesday evening, apparently sparked by the incense that was left unattended. No operational smoke alarms were found.
Firefighters pulled the two girls, 18-month-old Amanda Jabie and 2-year-old Jannubi Jabie, from the third-floor apartment and rushed them to the hospital, where they later died. Three firefighters and seven others suffered minor injuries.
"Horrible, it was horrible," witness Alyson Baker said. "A crowd of us watched them two little kids come out. At first, I thought the first one looked like maybe their pet, because it was so black."
Police say the 26-year-old mother, who is pregnant with her third child, thought someone else was with her children in the apartment she shares with another family. She spent at least 40 minutes at the Laundromat across the street from the home and is seen in surveillance video obtained by Eyewitness News attending to her wash, then frantically running home when she notices the commotion outside.
"She collapsed and started screaming when she came out, because she was not allowed up there," Baker said. "And then she just passed out. I guess it got so overwhelming that she just passed out. And she just laid there."
She returned home to the Butler houses Thursday morning after being questioned by police to find candles burning as a memorial to her children.
The fire started around 6:30 p.m. in the apartment in the 21-story building, and it became so dark that it was difficult to see and breathe.
"Me and my neighbor were standing outside, and we saw flames burst from the window," resident Davon Jackson said. "Air-conditioner exploded. I went upstairs to see if there was anybody in the hallway, anybody who needed help, and we heard kids crying. But it was too black. We couldn't breathe....I got a couple of kicks at the door, but after that I couldn't breathe."
Jackson and his friend could hear people, some young children, begging to be rescued from the blaze.
"As soon as the apartment door was opened, the firefighters found a very heavy fire condition and heavy smoke condition, possibly in the living room area," FDNY Deputy Chief Gary Rocco said. "Maybe two couches were on fire."
No charges have yet been filed, and it is unclear at this point if any will be.