NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two children were killed Saturday night in an apartment fire in Brooklyn.
CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas spoke to their mother about how she wants them to be remembered.
“They were like my best friends. My first loves,” Renita Gomez said.
The heartbreak is sinking in for Gomez. Her daughters, 7-year-old Payton and 9-year-old Hailey, died in a fire that consumed their grandfather’s Bushwick apartment.
“I still can’t wrap my head around it or fathom or where to begin to even look to start to heal,” Gomez said.
Just before 11 p.m. on Saturday firefighters arrived at Schaffer Street as flames engulfed a second-floor apartment. Allan Straker said he first smelled smoke and rushed to his balcony where he captured cellphone video.
“At the time the flames were just bursting out the window. The windows were just breaking,” Straker said.
Firefighters pulled the two children and their 53-year-old grandfather, who family identified as Vincente Gomez, out of the burning unit. Hailey and Payton were pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Hailey was the balanced one. She would do gymnastics, splits, flips. Peyton was the clumsy one, but she was the funny one,” Renita Gomez said.
Their mother said the girls visited their grandfather every weekend. Their bond was inseparable.
“I see him all the time with his granddaughters. I used to see him in the store, walking by, going back and forth,” family friend Jose Figueroa said.
“It’s hard to talk it up because these are customers of ours and these are people we see every day,” added Alex Sandoval, the owner of a nearby deli the family would frequent.
On Sunday afternoon, a charred stuffed animal just hung on the other side of the blown-out window. A neighbor brought a bouquet of flowers to create a makeshift memorial.
Meanwhile, investigators spent all day in the apartment building, examining the debris as they tried to determine a cause of the blaze.
Not far away, Renita Gomez was holding on to her favorite picture — her wedding day — when her family was complete.
“They were my lady bugs and my sugar to my tea,” she said. “Now, that’s gone.”
Vincente Gomez remained in the hospital on Sunday. While his condition had stabilized, his family said he has a long road ahead.