NY Daily News - March 05, 2019by ESHA RAY
As he dozed off to sleep, Aidan Jones saw his little brother, Tighani, come upstairs to their shared Queens bedroom, turn off the lights and climb into bed.
Little did Aidan know that Saturday night would be the last time he would see his beloved sibling alive.
A fast-moving fire blamed on a candle tore through the two-story Springfield Gardens home hours later, killing 8-year-old Tighani Jones in his bed, as his brother and a cousin jumped out of a window to safety.
Aidan recalls the harrowing events with almost exact precision, as if the memory of his dying brother is burned in his mind.
At around 2 a.m. came the unmistakable smell of smoke.
"I tried to open my eyes but it was black everywhere and my eyes were hurting me," Aidan, 13, told the Daily News on Monday. "I started looking for Tighani, because he's in the same room as me … I wasn't sure where he was."
Aidan groped through the haze for his bedroom door, but the handle was hot — so he reached for a window, which looks out onto 160th St.
"I kicked open the window and I started screaming, 'Fire!' from the roof," Aidan said. "I was trying to search for (Tighani's) bed but I couldn't find it because of the smoke. It was too thick, I couldn't see anything."
As he screamed for help, Aidan heard his mother yelling back from the first floor — 'We hear you!' — so he starting climbing out the window onto the roof. He was halfway out the window when Aidan heard his brother stirring in his sleep behind him.
"He (Tighani) was coughing and saying he's hot," Aidan recalled. "But I couldn't turn around otherwise I would slip down the roof."
"When I got down to the ground, I tried to go back around but the fire was catching the steps. My uncle tried to get up there, one of the neighbors tried to get up there, but we just couldn't get up there," he said as his eyes welled with tears.
Around the same time, Aidan and Tighani's cousin, Marco, 16, broke through the bars of his bedroom window on the side of the house and jumped to the ground, his hands bleeding from the impact.
From the street, the family and neighbors yelled desperately for Tighani to wake up — but the little boy wouldn't move.
"We were screaming his name to wake him up and tell him to come to the window but he was in a deep sleep," Aidan said.
"Trust me I know this kid," the boys' distraught father, whose name is also Aidan Jones, added. "He burns his energy out to the max and then he falls out. That's him. He sleeps so soundly."
Firefighters later found Tighani unconscious in his bed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Several members of the Tighani's family were taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center with minor injuries. Tighani's mother, Terrene Chung, was still at the hospital on Monday.
"She had black stuff all over her mouth and her lips. It looked like soot," said the elder Aidan Jones, who is 47. "She was out of it. She was standing in the snow, barefoot, for a long time, just focusing on trying to get back in to get her son."
Tighani's sudden death has sent shockwaves across his family. None of his relatives can comprehend how a bright little boy could perish so brutally.
"I used to say to him, 'Okay if you're so smart, tell me what to do during a fire.' And he'd say, 'Stop, drop and roll,'" Aidan said, the plastic hospital band still wrapped around his wrist Monday afternoon.
"If he was up, he would've known what to do."
In life, Tighani — nicknamed "Tiggy" — loved to draw and adored Dragon Ball Z. He was a competitive spirit who was as passionate about playing soccer with his four siblings as he was about school.
"He was one of the most talented people I knew. He was the smartest kid, he always knew what to do," his brother said. "He never struggled academically, he always finished his homework quickly. He always helped everyone out."
The FDNY said smoke alarms were present in the house, but weren't working.
Aidan said he talked with his mom about fire safety about a week ago, and the family was planning to purchase a fire extinguisher.
"We were trying to set up the fire alarm system in the house but we didn't have the screws and all that to turn it on," he said.
City building inspectors also discovered an illegal basement apartment, and hit the owner with violations for conversion and construction work done without a permit.
Aidan says a family of three or four people lived in the basement, but they weren't related.
It's also unclear where the candle came from, as Aidan doesn't remember seeing any in the house. "He said if there were candles, it had to be from the first floor because they're always burning candles whenever they cook to try to combat the smell," his father said.
As Aidan speaks about his dead brother, the memories seem to spill out of his mouth like water, one after another, as if voicing them will keep Tighani alive.
"My mom's birthday is on St. Patrick's Day and he (Tighani) was like, 'I'm going to get her a big ring.' Now he won't be able to celebrate her birthday," Aidan said through tears.
"All I wanted to do was get my brother out. But I couldn't get to him," he said. "I just miss him a lot."