Two toddler sisters were victims of an apartment fire in New York City’s Bronx borough after they were left trapped inside after their mother went to the Laundromat across the street, police said Thursday, CBS New York reports.
The girls’ mother was seen on surveillance footage at the Laundromat across the street at the time of the fire, which broke out in the apartment at Butler Houses around 6 p.m. Wednesday as a result of incense left burning in the apartment.
According to CBS, the woman said that she sublets the apartment to another adult who she assumed was home when she left. Authorities are investigating the claim but so far have found no evidence supporting it.
Jannubi Jabie, 2, and her sister, 18-month-old Amanda Jabie, were trapped inside the apartment and surrounded by flames and thick smoke. Neighbors tried to reach the girls but could not because of the hazardous conditions.
“We heard kids crying, but it was too black and we couldn’t breathe,” neighbor Daven Jackson said.
“I was in here and I heard the babies crying, and I thought somebody was in there with them,” another neighbor, Gladys Dozier, said.
The family next door had difficulty escaping, too, and put wet towels on their door until help arrived.
“I open the door to a bunch of black smoke,” neighbor Tisha Dozier explained. “I closed the door back.”
Firefighters broke windows and got everyone out, but the sisters were both unconscious and in critical condition.
“I seen the firemen bring the kids out, and they were burnt all over their body,” a witness, David Lawson, said.
“The mother came running from across the street, saying, ‘My babies, my babies,’” another witness, Alison Barker, said.
The two girls were rushed to the hospital but were later pronounced dead. The girls’ mother reportedly collapsed on the sidewalk at the scene and had to be taken to the hospital for trauma.
“It’s not her intention to leave her family alone. She went to the laundry to wash her clothes. She was about to come back to them,” local imam Musa Kabba told the news station.
Fire Department officials said that there were no working smoke alarms in the apartment. CBS reports that no charges have been filed against the mother at this time.
Read more at CBS New York.