UPDATE: After speaking with the family, The New York Times reported that the family’s name is spelled “Dukuray,” and that they lost five family members in the Bronx fire. Haja Dukuray, her husband Hajie; their son, Mustapha, 13; and two daughters, Mariam 10, and Fatoumata, 6, all perished in the tragic accident.
Hajie Dukuray worked at a fried chicken restaurant, while Haja was a home health aide, a relative told reporters. Extended family, who all emigrated from the West African nation of Gambia, gathered to mourn the heavy loss Monday night.
Hospitals are working Monday afternoon to save the lives of dozens of Bronx fire victims inflicted with burns and severe smoke inhalation following an apartment building fire that took the lives of 17 people on Sunday, including eight children and multiple members of the Dukureh family.
Six of the children’s names have since been released, according to a senior police official who spoke with NBC News, including Fatoumata Dukureh, 5; Mariam Dukureh, 11; Hawa Mahamdou, 5; Mustapha Dukyhreh, 11; Omar Jambay, 6; and Toure Seydou, 12.
Most of the victims’ names have yet to be confirmed by officials, with 30 others injured and in “life threatening” condition in hospitals around the five boroughs. Many families are also distraught as patients have been transferred from one hospital to another, making their loved ones more difficult to find.
Ceesay Dukureh, a member of the Dukureh family, and aunt of many of the young Bronx fire victims, said that her sister’s three kids died in the fire. She was reportedly bereaved as she searched for them at St. Barnabas Hospital.
“I know one woman on the 10th floor,” resident Stefon Beauvogui told NBC News reporters outside the apartment building, “three children… gone. And another African lady on the 19th floor–3 children… gone.”
The devastating Bronx fire was reportedly caused by a malfunctioning space heater, which then spread quickly as opened doors let the smoke fills the building. The apartment building was also without fire escapes, meaning that many residents were forced to flee down smoke-filled indoor stairways.
200 firefighters arrived to help fight the flames at 333 East 181st Street, with many grabbing oxygen tanks and running inside to help residents escape.
“It was absolutely horrific,” Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro told ABC News. “I talked to many veteran firefighters who said it was the worst fire they had seen in their lives… Unfortunately, not all fires have a positive outcome. It’s horrible. This fire will be with these members forever.”
Most of the deaths reported have been because of smoke inhalation, according to fire department officials, and many of them were found and pronounced dead at the scene either in hallways or smoke-filled stairwells.
Fanta Barrow, 45, told the New York Post that her 19-year-old cousin also died in the fire. He dreamed of being a lawyer, she revealed, and was a “very beautiful guy.”
Many resident also remain missing, according to the Post, such as Yusupha Jawara’s brother and sister-and-law, and a 38-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy named Dorel Anderson.
Resident Sandra Clayton’s dog, Mocha, was pronounced dead after it ran from her arms in the chaos and was later found unconscious in the stairwell.
“I just ran down the steps as much as I could but people was falling all over me, screaming,” Clayton said from a hospital where she is being treated for smoke inhalation. People were yelling, “Get out! Get out!”
“I lived in this building over 30 years,” said resident Tysenn Jacobs. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Officials are currently investigating the building’s fire alarms and doors, which were supposed to be “self-closing,” meaning that they could not remain open in the event of a fire.
Mamadou Wague told ABC News reporters that the fire started in his third-story duplex, where it engulfed their bedroom mattress in flames after they fled. His daughter allegedly got stuck, but he leapt through the fire to save her and sustained burns on his nose.
“We were sleeping and my kids were screaming, saying ‘Fire, Fire!'” he said. “So I see the fire in the mattress, and I told everybody, ‘Get out, get out.'”
Miraculously, his wife and his eight children all escaped unharmed. Some, like the Dukureh Family, however, were not as lucky. NBC News reported the Red Cross is currently helping at least 21 families who have been displaced by the tragic fire.
For those wishing to help the Bronx fire victims, the Red Cross is currently accepting donations as well as providing emergency housing. The non-profit humanitarian organization also needs assistance in providing food, water, and emotional support services to those who have lost loved ones in this tragic event.
A GoFundMe page created by Gambian Youth Organization (GYO) community members has also raised over $511,604 for families in need.