CHICAGO, Illinois -- Eight children and teens killed in a fire early Sunday in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago have been identified.
All of the victims are 16 and younger. One was just 3 months old. Two other teenagers were critically injured.
It is a tragedy beyond comprehension. Eight children dead. Two more hospitalized, clinging to life. All from the same family. The result of an early morning fire in Little Village.
According to family members, the children ranged in age from 3 months to 16 years. The victims have been identified as Amayah Almaraz, three months old; Alanni Ayala, 3; Ariel Garcia, 5; Gialonni Ayala, 5; Giovanni Ayala, 10; Xavier Contreras, 11; Nathan Contreras, 13; and Victor Mendoza, 16.
"We have not had this in many, many years. This amount of fatalities and injuries in one location," said Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago.
It is in fact, the worst house fire registered in the city of Chicago in recent memory.
The fire started on the enclosed rear porch of a coach house behind a three-story apartment building about 4 a.m. in the 2200 block of South Sacramento Avenue, according to Chicago Fire Media Affairs and Chicago police.
The family says there was a sleepover going on Saturday night and that the deceased are from at least two families.
A neighbor came home from work just before 4 a.m., saw smoke and called 911.
"The person who came and made the initial call also started knocking on doors and telling people there was a fire, so they basically started to self-evacuate as the fire companies got on the scene. So the female who did that saved a lot of lives," said Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago.
Fire officials say many of the victims were already dead when they arrived. The victims were all found on the second floor. The first floor was vacant.
Marcos Contreras lost two brothers and two sisters in the fire, along with three cousins. They were, he says, having a sleepover.
"I don't even know how I'm going to wake up and continue life, knowing that my brothers and sisters are six feet underground," Contreras said.
It's not clear who was supervising the children.
Fourteen-year-olds Ceasar Contreras and Adrian Hernández are at Stroger Hospital still on life support.
Relatives today placed crosses with the names of the dead in front of the home.
The Bureau of ATF has been called in to help with the investigation, but officials say not to draw any conclusions as they have not yet determined if the fire was accidental or otherwise.
There were no working smoke detectors.
According to the Building Department website in Chicago, the building failed its last inspection in June due to electrical issues.
Fire officials are investigating.
Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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