DNAinfo - December 21, 2013by Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner
KENSINGTON — A 16-year-old girl died and her sisters were critically injured as they huddled in a top-floor bathroom while a massive fire engulfed the apartment around them, officials said.
The sisters, whose identities were not released, were found in the third-floor bathroom after the fire started in the floor below them about 5:30 a.m. and shot up the East Eighth Street building, near Beverly Road, the FDNY said.
"We received a report of people trapped on the top floor," FDNY chief John Hodges said at the scene. "We immediately started working on trying to get them out."
Jasmine Guillaume, 16, was taken to Maimonides hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the NYPD said.
The two other sisters, 24 and 27, were rushed to Kings County Hospital, where they remained in critical condition, police said.
Loved ones visited the home after the fire shouting the girl's name and "No, no, no!" An NYPD community affairs officer hugged one of the women.
The girls' 57-year-old mother and 59-year-old aunt were also taken to Kings County Hospital and listed as stable, police said.
"They took the mom out and put her in a wheelchair. She was crying. She was shaking," said 19-year-old neighbor, Abdul Elrowmeim, who saw the aftermath.
Over 100 firefighters raced to the inferno and immediately sent a team into the building while another scaled the outside in what firefighter Thomas Bradley called a "multi-pronged attack."
"The inside team was searching the second floor where they met fire. The fire was coming down the hallway at them. They tried to keep it away from them as some members proceeded ahead to search bedrooms looking for the children," Bradley said in a press conference after the fire.
Meanwhile, the team outside tried approached the third floor windows, Bradley said.
"They were met with very heavy smoke and heat. There was fire coming out the windows," Bradley said.
Firefighters climbed in and started searching the upstairs floor, looking for the trapped sisters, the FDNY said.
Then, as firefighters brought the main body of fire under control, Bradley reached the girls' refuge, he said. "I found a bathroom door that was shut. It appeared that the three people who were trapped had tried to hide on the third floor in the bathroom," Bradley said.
Ultimately, the sisters were rescued by Bradley, Lt. Matt Martin and Firefighters Brian Clifford, Sean O’Grady, Kevin Coursey from Ladder 147 and Lt. Ken Michitsch from Engine 250, according to the FDNY.
"I saw them pumping the chest. There were about eight firefighters gathered around and they started pumping," said 20-year-old witness Folushade Butts.
"As soon as they got the first one out, they rushed [the others] in no time," Butts added.
Fire marshals were investigating its cause, but the FDNY said that the building did not have any working smoke detectors which may have alerted the sisters to the fire before "it was too late."
"They would've gotten a much earlier warning and we might be having a different conversation," Bradley said.
The FDNY stood at the intersection of Beverly Road and East 8th Street to pass out batteries and other fire safety materials.
"This is a tragedy," Hodges said. "We do our best to help, but it's never a good thing, especially around the holidays."