2 dead, 4-year-old girl critical after fire tears through NYC apartment building

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A man and woman were killed and a child critically injured when a second alarm fire tore through an apartment building in Harlem overnight Friday.

Authorities say an 81-year-old man pulled from the building was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital, hours after a 37-year-old woman was pronounced dead at St. Luke's Hospital.

Both suffered smoke inhalation.

A 4-year-old girl remains in critical condition at Harlem Hospital with burns.

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The female victim was identified as Nene Korouma, and the 4-year-old is her daughter. Husband Papa Kante is devastated.

"She was a lovely wife," he said. "I love her. She was a very good person. Too much smoke, that was the problem."

Kante has a 3-week-old son who also survived the fire. His 4-year-old daughter is also expected to pull through.

Sandra Foley was the elderly victim's neighbor.

"Oh my God, what a sweet man," she said. "He was a music teacher, he worked at Julliard. He had problems with his legs, and that's why I think he was unable to get out."

The residents were pulled by firefighters from the apartment in the Seventh Avenue apartment building just before 1:45 a.m. Friday.

The fire started in a third floor apartment, below what firefighters called a "heavy clutter condition."

"There were rescues on the floor above," FDNY Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Fred Schaaf said. "We were able to pull those people out of the apartment. They were unconscious and in cardiac arrest, and they were transported...It's just that that smoke inhalation, from the smoke going to the floors above, is very difficult."

The 44-year-old female resident of the third floor apartment where the fire started is described by a police official as emotionally disturbed.

Fire Marshals have confirmed that the door to the fire apartment was left open.

"I tell all New Yorkers, you have the power to save your neighbors or to put your neighbors in extreme danger," FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro said. "It's a very simple thing to do, is if you do have a fire in your apartment, when you leave, close the door behind you."

One resident told Eyewitness News the woman was running in the hallways laughing and yelling, "Fire!"

She is being interviewed by detectives at the hospital, where she was being treated for a non-life-threatening injury.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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At least six other residents sustained non life threatening injuries. Many climbed down fire escapes to safety, including Efrain Sarmiento.

"It was black, black smoke everywhere," he said. "And then I just climbed down the stairs, the fire escape."

The building was evacuated as firefighters continued cleanup work.

Residents who were not allowed back into their apartments were being sheltered in a city bus brought in to help them keep warm.

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