Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building and four people were in the hospital in critical condition.
Williams's other sister, Shevan Williams managed to survive the blaze after escaping in time from her first floor apartment. The apartment door remained open. The fire then spread quickly, with the five story building's stairwell acting like a chimney.
"We're in the midst right now of the worst month for loss of life in our city from fire in the past ten years", Mr Nigro said.
At least 14 families were homeless, and four of them were taken to hotels, according to the American Red Cross. Soon, as many as 170 firemen arrived on the scene to slow the raging fire.
"I came out through the window". "When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him".
"I don't know what to think".
"All I see is the flames going up", he said.
When the mother fled the burning apartment with the boy and his 2-year-old sibling, she made a fatal mistake - she left the apartment door open.More news: Sound Check for Mariah Carey's 'Rockin' Eve' Do-Over Mandatory
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The shocked brother of Maria Batiz also identified her as another one of the fatalities.
"I called some phones, no one answered", he said. The victims died on various floors of the apartment building.
"The first story I heard is that she was up top and she couldn't get down", said George, 19, fighting back tears.
A baby girl seen in a photo next to a smiling Batiz is also among the dead, Fernando said. She called him Thursday morning, but he was asleep and missed the call. Francis' mother told the New York Times that 13 members of the family lived in the building. "It feels so surreal".
"Close the door, close the door, close the door", Nigro said.
Records from a city housing agency show one of the apartments on the building's first floor reported defective carbon monoxide and smoke detectors months ago. Such violations are common: The city cited 7,752 of them previous year. It has more than 20 units. He added that it's not unusual for children to be fascinated by fire or rare for children to start them. "Say something. You leave the door open and just say, "fire, fire, fire" you're not saying anything else?" Another 10 people were killed at a Bronx fire in 2007, nine of them children. One eyewitness told WABC-TV that there were children stuck on the fire escape.
Nigro said the 3 1/2-year-old boy had a history of playing with stove burners. "Kids on the fire escape". The granddaughter was "terrified", he said, and they stayed at a friend's house last night. No one has been able find Mensah; his family has checked four hospitals.
"That's my prayer", he said.