New York City officials questioned an ambulance’s response time to a Queens house fire that claimed the lives of two four-year-old girls in April 2014. After EMTs arrived on the scene, 20 minutes after an initial 911 call, the two young girls were immediately rushed to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where they died shortly thereafter as the result of smoke inhalation. Another four-year-old girl who survived the fire was listed in stable condition at the hospital. The girls’ grandfather was listed in stable condition at Nassau University Medical Center where he was being treated for burns and smoke inhalation injuries. A 55-year-old tenant was listed in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. There were no working smoke detectors in the home at the time of the fire.
According to FDNY and NYPD officials, the fire broke out shortly before 11:50 p.m. when two four-year-old girls, Jai’Laumi and Aniya Tinglin, began playing with a lighter and accidently set their grandfather’s bed on fire in a bedroom basement. The grandfather woke and realized that his bed was on fire and carried four-year-old Laylani Tinglin to safety outside the home. Officials believe that the two other girls somehow got away from their grandfather.
When firefighters responded to the scene shortly after the initial 911 call made at 11:51 p.m., they found the two girls unconscious and immediately began performing CPR. However, EMT responders were not called to respond until 12:06 a.m., and ultimately did not arrive on the scene until 20 minutes after the initial 911 call. Krystal Williams, a neighbor who witnessed the incident, said that one firefighter was screaming into the radio, “‘Where’s the ambulance?’ Everything happened so quick, but looking at it, everything happened so slow.”
Another neighbor, Ronda Clarke, said that the firefighters were waiting for EMS as they performed CPR on the two young fire victims. Clarke stated, “They were very upset. They were saying, ‘Where is EMS?’” Williams stated that when an ambulance finally arrived, it only made it to a nearby cross street because it may have been blocked by parked cars. However, firefighters picked the two children up and ran them to the ambulance.
Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano stated that ambulances aren’t dispatched immediately to all fires. He remarked, “We just don’t dispatch ambulances on all reported fires. We just don’t have the resources. But when fire units get to the scene, whether it’s the first engine or the first chief, they’ll transmit a signal of a working fire, which is what we call a 10-75, and at the time, an ambulance should be dispatched.”
A union representative for the EMTs stated that an ambulance was not dispatched until 12:06 a.m. and that EMTs arrived to the fire six minutes after the call. The union representative stated, “It wasn’t until seconds before that the first ambulance arrived at approximately 12:12 a.m., that the Fire Department dispatch advised EMS dispatchers that there were two children in cardiac arrest.” The fatal fire prompted city officials to order an investigation into the matter.
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association, from 2007 to 2011, 49,300 fires were started by children playing with fire, resulting in 80 deaths and 860 injuries. The report indicated that of the 49,300 fires set by children, 11,100 of them occurred in homes, with 43 percent of them being started by children under the age of six. In 52 percent of the house fires, children were playing with lighters.
Website Resource: Fire Kills Two 4-Year-Old Siblings in the Rockaways, J. David Goodman & Emma Fitzsimmons, NY Times, April 20, 2014
FDNY: Child Playing with Lighter Sparked Fatal Queens Fire, NY1, Jose Martinez, April 21, 2014