Mom dies after fire

Newsday - December 24, 2006

by HERBERT LOWE


STAFF WRITER; T.W. Farnam contributed to this story.

A Brooklyn woman died yesterday after a fire in her sixth-floor apartment late Friday that also left her 2-year-old son critically injured. Her 14-year-old son escaped out a window, surviving a three-story fall, authorities said.

Police said the 2-year-old started the fire, at 11:40 p.m., while playing with matches in the apartment in Flatbush. Eight people were inside at the time.

Relatives identified the woman who died as Sandra Stephens, 41, and her 14-year-old and 2-year-old sons as Kamilie and Kyle Stephens. The boys' sister, Keona, 8, was there but not injured.

The other occupants included a 45-year-old woman who was in critical condition, a 45-year-old man who suffered burns, a 12-year-old boy who was in stable condition, and a 9-year-old girl who was not injured.

Those four people were living with the Stephens family, but the Stephens' relatives said they did not know their names. Police and fire officials identified Sandra Stephens, but they did not provide the names of anyone else in the apartment.

"I was going to sleep over there, but there was no room," said Royhan Stephens, who said he had spent all day Friday with his cousin, Kamilie, a player in a local youth basketball league. "We were supposed to go shopping. I woke up this morning and they said there was a fire. I never expected it to be my family."

The fire started when Kyle was playing with stick matches and ignited a mattress inside the apartment, according to fire department officials. Sandra Stephens was in the same room, along with the 45-year-old man. They attempted to drag the mattress out of the apartment and to a hallway. The mattress became stuck in the foyer, however, and the fire spread, officials said.

When firefighters arrived, they found Kyle in the bathtub and Sandra Stephens badly burned in a bedroom. Kyle was rushed to Seaview Hospital in Staten Island, and his mother, a nurse, was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where she later died.

"He's funny. He loves to play. He's cute and chubby," Donnette Miller said of Kyle, her nephew. "And now he is in the hospital all by himself."

The 45-year-old female and the 12-year-old boy were burned and unconscious in a bedroom; they were both taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, officials said. The 45-year-old male who tried to remove the burning mattress rushed out the front door with burns to his arms and hands; he was treated and released at a local hospital.

Kamilie Stephens escaped through a window by using either a cable wire or white sheet to climb down. After he descended three stories, he fell and broke his ankle, authorities said. He was in stable condition at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Carmelo Morales, 20, said he was putting up Christmas lights in his window across Albemarle Road when he saw Kamilie Stephens yelling from the burning apartment before leaping.