sunny.png
Thursday May 19th, 2022 8:36PM

A glance, then grim truth for brother of Bronx fire victim

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — The man on the gurney looked so familiar, but in the commotion of a big-city emergency room, Yusupha Jawara quickly turned his attention back to other people seeking medical help at St. Barnabas Hospital.

After a deadly blaze broke out at a Bronx apartment building, Jawara, who lives nearby, rushed to the scene and helped transport people to the hospital. But as Sunday wore on, his concern about his family grew. His brother Hagi did not answer the phone. Neither did his sister-in-law.

Then he thought back to that brief glance of the man whose hair and partially masked face looked so much like his brother. It couldn’t be, he thought. Surely, his brother would have been safe on the 18th floor, far from the fire that started 15 stories below.

“I was just helping the EMS transport one person to the hospital when I saw him — somebody similar like him — on a stretcher being brought to the ER,” Jawara said Tuesday as his family began making funeral plans for their loved ones. “At that time, I didn’t have the focus to know that it was him.”

But when his sister-in-law's cellphone was found on the street, he knew something was amiss.

Jawara’s brother and sister-in-law, Isatou Jabbie, were among the 17 people who died as they tried to flee through the smoke-filled stairwell of the 19-story tower. The victims of the city’s deadliest fire in more than three decades included eight children, three of them from one family. All of them died of smoke inhalation, according to the medical examiner.

Jawara’s brother fled to the United States in the 1990s as a refugee during the civil war in his homeland, Sierra Leone. He later married a Gambian woman whose family had settled in the Bronx.

Fire officials say a malfunctioning electric space heater started the blaze, which damaged only a small part of the building. But smoke engulfed the complex after tenants, fleeing the unit where the flames began, left the apartment door open behind them in their hurry to escape.

Spring-loaded hinges that were supposed to shut the door automatically did not work. A second door left open in a stairwell higher up acted as a flue, sucking smoke upward.

A fire in 1986 in the same apartment building produced heavy smoke from burning garbage that rose from floor to floor, but everyone survived because they knew to stay in their homes until the fire was out, according to a fire official who wrote about the blaze in the training publication called With New York Firefighters, or WNYF.

People who did try to flee were new to the building and unfamiliar with high-rise safety procedures, the official wrote. One woman tried escaping down a stairwell with her 6-month old baby, then got confused as she retreated back toward her apartment and was found sitting on a hallway floor, clutching her child, the publication said.

At the time of the 1986 blaze, the fire official wrote, automatic fire sprinklers in the trash compactor shaft and compactor room had been turned off. A self-closing door to the compactor closet on one floor had been wedged open and the door to a stairway on another floor had been left open to increase air flow.

The “combined effect of bypassing these safety devices contributed to the severity of the subsequent fire,” Deputy Chief James Murtagh wrote in the publication.

The deputy chief blamed “ignorance, carelessness or lack of understanding, with disastrous results.”

At the time, according to the publication, each apartment was equipped with fire-protected, self-closing doors and a smoke detector.

Sunday's blaze originated in a third-floor apartment, sparked by a faulty space heater that is now the subject of an investigation by federal safety regulators at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the apartment’s front door and a door on the 15th floor should have been self-closing and blunted the spread of smoke, but the doors stayed fully open. It was not clear if the doors failed mechanically or if they had been manually disabled.

The deaths over the weekend spread anguish through a mostly immigrant community in the Bronx.

Authorities on Tuesday released the names of 14 victims, including seven children ranging from 5 to 12 years old. The oldest fatality was a 50-year-old woman, who shared the same last name with three other people.

The medical examiner's office has begun releasing some of the dead to funeral homes.

At least a dozen of those who perished worshipped at the Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque, where imam Musa Kabba has been helping the community grieve.

“Things have been very slow, but we have to be patient,” the imam said.

Ishak Drammeh arrived at the mosque Tuesday to pray. He lost his wife, Fatoumata, and three children — two adult daughters, Foutmala and Nyumaaisha, and a son, Muhammad, who had just turned 12 the day before the fire.

A surviving daughter, Fatima, 23, recalled the final evening with her mother and a younger sister the night before the fire.

“I didn’t think it would be my last time seeing them," she told The New York Times.

Also among the dead was the five-member Dukureh family: Haja Dukureh and Haji Dukureh, originally from Gambia, and their three children.

“This is a very close-knit community. We are predominantly from one town in the Gambia called Alunghare, so we are all family," said Haji Dukureh, the uncle of Haja Dukureh, whose husband had the same name. The surviving uncle drove to the Bronx from his home in Delaware on Monday. “Most of the people here, we are all related in one way or the other.”

Because many people in the building were also members of the same congregation, "it’s like one big family.”

“We just want to have the deceased and place them in their final resting place,” Dukureh said.

___

Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York City and Michael Hill in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
A glance, then grim truth for brother of Bronx fire victim
A New York man who helped take people to the hospital after a deadly New York City fire nearly overlooked his own brother in the aftermath of the blaze
6:11PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Giants fire Joe Judge as coach after 10-23 record in 2 years
The New York Giants have cleaned house, firing coach Joe Judge a day after general manager Dave Gettleman retired
5:51PM ( 31 minutes ago )
US shoppers find some groceries scarce due to virus, weather
Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown more acute in recent weeks
5:36PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
EPA moves to crack down on dangerous coal ash storage ponds
The Environmental Protection Agency is taking its first major action to address toxic wastewater from coal-burning power plants, ordering utilities to stop dumping waste into unlined storage ponds and speed up plans to close leaking or otherwise dangerous coal ash sites
5:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
Judge in federal trial in Floyd death urges quick proceeding
The judge handling the federal trial for three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights is urging attorneys to “move the case along” to reduce chances that the proceeding will be disrupted by COVID-19
5:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Medical helicopter crashes near church; all 4 aboard survive
Authorities and witnesses say a pilot crash landed a medical helicopter without loss of life in a residential area of suburban Philadelphia, somehow avoiding a web of power lines and buildings as the aircraft fluttered, hit the street and slid into bushes outside a church
4:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Helicopter crashes in suburban Philly; no serious injuries
Authorities say a medical helicopter has crashed in a residential area of suburban Philadelphia, with four people on board including an infant all expected to survive
2:35PM ( 3 hours ago )
Status hearing set for 3 cops charged in Floyd's death
Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights during an arrest that ended in his death are scheduled to appear in federal court for a pretrial conference
2:31PM ( 3 hours ago )
Brrr! Some schools close as extreme cold grips US Northeast
A mass of arctic air swept into the Northeast, bringing bone-chilling sub-zero temperatures and closing schools across the region for the second time in less than a week
2:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
2nd election for Amazon workers in Alabama will be by mail
A federal labor board said that Amazon workers in a facility in Bessemer, Alabama will vote by mail next month in a re-run election to decide whether or not to unionize
5:08PM ( 1 hour ago )
Stocks shake off an early loss, end higher as tech rebounds
Stocks closed higher on Wall Street Tuesday as technology companies rebounded after an early loss
4:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
Indigenous news outlets, nonprofits drive deeper coverage
Native American communities have seen more robust news coverage in recent years, in part because of an increase in Indigenous affairs reporting positions at U.S. newsrooms and support from foundations
3:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Author Kwame Alexander to launch new trilogy this fall
A trilogy by award-winning children’s author Kwame Alexander that tells the saga of an African family begins this fall with “The Door of No Return.”
10:43AM ( 7 hours ago )
Fed vice chair is latest official to quit in trading scandal
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida said he will step down on Friday, the third Fed official to resign in the wake of a trading scandal at the central bank
5:53PM ( 1 day ago )
Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida resigns amid trading scandal
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida said he will step down on Friday, the third Fed official to resign in the wake of a trading scandal at the central bank
5:26PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Abrams noticeably absent from Biden's voting rights push
There was a prominent Atlanta resident missing Tuesday when President Joe Biden swung through the city to press for voting rights protections: Stacey Abrams
6:12PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Giants fire Joe Judge as coach after 10-23 record in 2 years
The New York Giants have cleaned house, firing coach Joe Judge a day after general manager Dave Gettleman retired
5:51PM ( 31 minutes ago )
US shoppers find some groceries scarce due to virus, weather
Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown more acute in recent weeks
5:36PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Planners of Jan. 6 Trump rally subpoenaed by House panel
The House panel investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection has issued subpoenas to two Republican strategists and a Trump administration official regarding their involvement in the planning and preparation of one of the rallies that preceded the deadly attack
5:34PM ( 49 minutes ago )
AP source: MLB labor talks to resume after 42-day break
Major League Baseball and the players’ association are scheduled to meet Thursday in the first negotiations between the parties since labor talks broke off Dec. 1
5:29PM ( 54 minutes ago )