Boy fights for life after deadly fire

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Five people _ including three children _ died after a fire swept through this top floor apartment in New York early Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 &#40;AP Photo&#47;David Karp&#41;</span></div>
Three children among the dead
October 12, 2008 6:59:28 PM PDT
A 10-year-old boy was fighting for his life Sunday, a day after a Manhattan fire killed his parents and three young siblings in a home that became a deathtrap in just minutes. It was the second New York blaze in as many days. On Sunday, a 12-year-old boy and a man perished in a house in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood.

In Saturday's fire, the six members of one family were found unconscious, huddled in the bathroom and bedroom of their Manhattan apartment; only the boy survived. He was still hospitalized in critical condition Sunday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, where he had been placed in a hyperbaric chamber that supplies emergency oxygen to burn victims, fire officials said.

In another part of the city, autopsies were planned Sunday for the five members of the family who lost their lives when fire swept through their seventh-floor apartment at the top of the Robert Fulton public housing complex in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

The family, including three girls ages 15 months, 3 and 8, died at dawn Saturday when the blaze filled their home with thick black smoke and kept them from escaping through the front door, fire officials said.

Firefighters found the boy in a back bedroom, along with his father and 15-month-old sister, who were under bunk beds near a window.

The mother and an 8-year-old sister sought refuge in a bathtub filled with water. A 3-year-old girl was also in the bathroom, under a sink.

"I smelled smoke and heard bodies slamming and yelping - yelping like a dog," Tashara Francis, who lives on the floor below, told the Daily News.

The fire started at about 6:30 a.m. in the kitchen.The cause was under investigation.

The Fire Department of New York said the smoke detector had been unplugged and the battery removed. The smoke detector was inspected six months ago and was working, according to New York City Housing Authority officials.

Officials said it was the deadliest New York fire since 10 people, including nine children, died when their Bronx home caught on fire in March 2007.

Saturday's victims were identified as the 40-year-old father, Maschay Joa Valdez, the 34-year-old mother, Delkis Balbuena; and three girls, 8-year-old Nanny Joa Balbuena; 3-year-old Bet-el Joa Balbuena, and Ruth Joa Balbuena, 15 months.

Police did not release the name of the 10-year-old boy.

Neighbors identified him as Jonzan Joa Balbuena. They said he and his family were immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

The five family members died after flames filled the kitchen, close to the front door; a long hallway acted like a chimney, drawing smoke back into the apartment, deputy fire chief James Daly said. And there was no fire escape.

"The fire didn't allow them to get past to that door. They were trapped in the rear," Daly said. "Everyone was in cardiac and respiratory arrest."

He said that a working alarm might have saved the family, giving them time to flee.

Firefighters worked quickly, shattering windows and extinguishing flames about 45 minutes after the blaze began.

Then the lifeless bodies were carried out - some by weeping firefighters.

When the last firefighter emerged, he dropped to his knees and prayed.

Click here for more New York and Tri-State News

Report a typo || Send a story idea || Send news photos/videos