NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 9-year-old boy was killed and nearly a dozen other people were hospitalized when a fire broke out early Wednesday morning inside a home in Queens.
Police said the fire spread from the basement to the upper floors, trapping the victims inside.READ MORE: New Musical 'Six' Back On Stage After Pandemic Forced Broadway's Closure On Opening Night
As CBS2’s Christina Fan reported, the little boy’s family had just moved into the basement unit Tuesday night. They were charging an e-scooter battery near the child’s room when it caught on fire.
Heartbreak, anger and confusion enveloped the block in Ozone Park as firefighters rescued families from the raging flames. Parents tightly hugged their children after learning 9-year-old Remi Miguel Gomez-Hernandez lost his life inside.
Humberto Gilbert described the child’s frantic calls for help in Spanish. Gilbert was helping the family move into their new home when an explosion rocked the apartment.
“The mom said she could hear the child yelling, ‘Mommy, help me! Mommy, help me!'” he told CBS2.
Gilbert said the mother frantically tried to save him. She had to send him to sleep early that night and was in anguish realizing he was trapped inside his bedroom.
“We tried to go back three times to look for the child, but we couldn’t, because the fire, smoke and heat did not let us,” Gilbert said.
He said he, the child’s parents and another sibling escaped through a back door.
Firefighters arrived and pulled 13 people out of the building on 102nd Road near Liberty Avenue, but they could not reach the little boy in time.READ MORE: A Closer Look At This Year's Best Musical Nominees: 'Moulin Rouge', 'Tina' And 'Jagged Little Pill'
Neighbors said if firefighters hadn’t responded as quickly as they did, many of the people rescued would have died.
“I pulled down the window and I said, ‘Help me! Help me.’ And the fireman, he know,” victim Wilman Melendez said.
Fire marshals searched through the burnt rubble to trace what triggered the fire.
“These batteries have been known to overheat, have been known to explode. People go to sleep — they take a long time to charge, so they’ll charge them overnight, and as in this instance, the boy wakes up and there’s no way out,” he said.
The commissioner said the batteries are proving to be an extreme hazard throughout the city. Since last August, there have been 56 fires caused by these batteries, and this is the third fatal incident.
“Frequently, where do people charge these batteries? Right near the front door and what does that do? It blocks in their exit,” Nigro said.
Officials said the cellar that the 9-year-old died in was an illegal conversion, with no front door. It only had a back exit the boy could not get to.MORE NEWS: New Video Shows Suspects Wanted For East Harlem Slashing
CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.