2-year-old Ousmane Konteh was identified by police as the youngest victim of a devastating Bronx apartment fire on Sunday that killed 17 people and injured dozens more.
Eight of the Bronx fire victims reported were children under the age of 11, with multiple members of the deceased belonging to the same family.
A malfunctioning space heater on the third floor of the 120-unit is said to have caused the fire, though all of the casualties died due to severe smoke inhalation. Doors in the hallways and stairwell were left open, even though they were supposed to be “self-closing” in the event of a fire, spreading thick, black smoke all throughout the building.
“Black, black smoke. I could barely see from me to you,” one resident told CBS News reporters standing outside of the burning building.
The Bronx building was part of a rich Ghanian and Muslim neighborhood, where many families were not only close but also active in the community.
2-year-old Ousmane Konteh was reportedly staying with his aunt the morning of the Bronx fire, who lived on the 19th floor of the high-rise apartment building. Attempting to escape through the stairwell with Ousmane Konteh and her own son, they did not make it out alive.
Ousmane Konteh’s mother, Fatoumata Sankanu, who was at work when news of the fire broke, was alerted and immediately traveled to the Bronx building, according to her cousin, Coumba Sankanou.
Setting up a GoFundMe page on Wednesday, Coumba said that Ousmane was one of four children. She asked for donations to help with funeral costs as her relative grieved the loss of her family members.
It is not clear, according to Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro, why the doors in the building malfunctioned, but the Bronx apartment building was located in a low-income neighborhood.
The door was reportedly “so deformed from the heavy fire that our marshals are having very great difficulty determining exactly why it wouldn’t close,” Nigro said, which is why the building filled up with smoke so quickly.
He stated that firefighters “found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest.”
A candlelight prayer vigil was held outside the building on Tuesday night to honor the Bronx fire victims, including five members of the Dukuray family. Speaking with the family on Monday, The New York Times reported that Haja Dukuray, her husband Hajie; their son, Mustapha, 13; and two daughters, Mariam 10, and Fatoumata, 6, were all lost in the devastating fire.
“I know one woman on the 10th floor,” resident Stefon Beauvogui told NBC News reporters on Monday, “three children… gone. And another African lady on the 19th floor–3 children… gone.”
Isatou Jabbie, 31 and her husband Hagi Jawara, 47, also died in the accident, and were the final two victims to be released by authorities.
The remaining victims, according to NBC News, included Haouwa Mahamadou, 5; Omar Jambang, 6; Seydou Toure, 12; Muhammed Drammeh, 12; Nyumaaisha Drammeh, 19; Foutmala Drammeh, 21; Fatoumata Drammeh, 50; Sera Janneh, 27; and Fatoumata Tunkara, 43.
Many of the Bronx fire victims reportedly worshipped at the Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque, where funeral services are planned to be held over the next few days.
Roughly 30 others injured by smoke inhalation were also said to be in “life-threatening” condition at hospitals around the five boroughs.
A GoFundMe page created by Gambian Youth Organization (GYO) community members has also raised over $1,011,140 for families in need as of Wednesday, Jan. 12.
Mayor Eric Adams called the fire an “unspeakable tragedy” on Monday, stating that, “The city stands ready to give impacted families all the support they need — it’s what we do.”