NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 12-year-old boy died after being found unresponsive early Sunday in a fire in Rockaway Park, Queens.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, black soot marked the windows of the apartment where 12-year-old Thomas Curly lost his life. First responders were called at 3:10 a.m. for the fire in the building at 122-20 Ocean Promenade.

Once the fire was out, responders found the boy — known to his family as T.J. — unconscious and unresponsive at the scene, police said.

T.J. was rushed to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

T.J. Curley

T.J. Curley, 12, was killed in a fire in Far Rockaway, Queens on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (Credit: Curly Family)

Bob Canavan is the boy’s neighbor.

“Around 4 o’clock in the morning, a man was knocking on my window. He was on the fire escape saying there was a fire. ‘You got to get out! You got to get out now!’” Canavan said. “So I opened the door to the hall, but there was so much smoke. You couldn’t get out there.”

Neighbors said T.J.’s mother, Brianne Curly – along with her boyfriend and the boy’s grandfather – found their way out of the burning apartment.

Brianna Curly was screaming for help to save her son trapped inside. Firefighters discovered his lifeless body.

Friends said T.J.’s smile could light up the room, and he made everyone he met feel special.

“A happy, jolly kid. If you were upset, he would hug you no matter who you were,” said friend Gianna Cillia. “If you were a stranger and you were upset, he would hug you. He was different.”

Gianna said T.J. was her best friend. She woke up to the devastating news of the fire that took his life.

Neighbors could not believe the sweet boy they called T.J. was gone.

“He was just a good all around kid,” said neighbor Louis Harris. “Everybody liked him.”

“He was a very, very nice little boy” another neighbor said. “Very nice.”

“He was excited! The tree lighting, Santa Claus – just, just sad,” said friend Luisa Guzman.

While the neighborhood mourned the loss of a bright, musically talented young boy with an old soul, many were worried about his mother losing her only son.

“He’s not like the rest of the kids,” Gianna said. “No one was like him.”

“You can never accept that. That’s one thing that can never be OK with,” said Barbara Cilla, ‘and I know his mom is going to be awfully upset for a very long time.”

The New York City Fire Marshal ruled that the cause of the fire was smoking, and the fire was accidental. The smoke alarms were not operational.

T.J.’s surviving family members all had their conditions listed as stable late Sunday.

Students at P.S. 114 in Belle Harbor where T.J. went to school will all wear blue in his honor on Monday. Blue was T.J.’s favorite color.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office will determine the cause of T.J.’s death.


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