FAR ROCKAWAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Easter Sunday has turned tragic for a Queens family who is spending the holiday mourning the deaths of two 4-year-old siblings killed in an overnight house fire.
The blaze broke out just before midnight on Bay 30th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens, CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported.
Jai’Launi and Ayina Tinglin, both 4, were taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. They were half-brother and half-sister, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported. Three other relatives were injured.
“Those were real good kids, those were real good kids,” the children’s grandmother said as she stood outside of the home on Sunday night.
Investigators confirmed to WCBS 880’s Monica Miller that one of the children accidentally started the fire.
“The firemen were taking the kids’ limp bodies out of the house, and it was devastating,” a neighbor told Burrell. “This morning, I get up and I heard that they died — I’m sad. I cried. It’s hurtful. Look at our babies. They’re angels.”
The boy’s 4-year-old twin sister was also staying at their grandfather’s home, 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported. She was hospitalized but is expected to survive.
Crews were also seen giving CPR to a 55-year-old woman who suffered smoke inhalation, Burrell reported. She and the children’s 63-year-old grandfather were rushed to the hospital in serious condition. He suffered serious burns to his hands and face. Both have been upgraded to stable condition.
A firefighter who suffered a minor injury was treated and released from a hospital.
It took firefighters about an hour to bring the blaze, which stayed contained to the basement, under control, Burrell reported.
The investigation is ongoing, but CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported that police said that the children appear to have been playing with a lighter near a bed.
Family members were gathering at the house Sunday morning.
Madglyn Groves said she can’t believe her young cousins are gone.
“Shock,” she told Miller. “A state of shock.”
Lisa, a neighbor, said she remembers seeing the grandfather playing with the children in the yard.
“My prayers go out to them, and I’m sorry for their loss,” she said.
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan offered prayers for the children who died in the fire.
“We hold up to the Lord the needs of those for whom this Easter Sunday morning might still seem like the darkness of Good Friday. We think of that family that lost those two little children in the fire last night here in New York,” Dolan said.
The fire occurred in the seaside community of Far Rockaway, a narrow strip of land hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, when fires destroyed dozens of homes as the ocean met the bay.
On Sunday afternoon, neighbors placed teddy bears on the lawn where hours earlier there had been a frantic effort to save the children.
“It’s sad. I cried. They’re babies. They’re angels. It’s not a happy Easter for me,” neighbor Sharon Bouyea said.
Relatives, who have been shuttling between hospitals where the survivors are recovering, now have to plan two funerals for smart, loving kids who had so much promise.
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