A 5-year-old girl and her father’s girlfriend were killed early Wednesday when an ion lithium battery explosion ignited an East Harlem apartment inferno that left the child’s badly-burned dad fighting for his life, authorities and neighbors said.
The 2:35 a.m. blast came from an e-bike parked near the apartment’s front door, blocking the three residents from escaping the lethal smoke and flames in the darkness. One neighbor told the Daily News the intense heat melted the front door and its lock on the victims’ sixth-floor apartment.
The little girl’s heartbroken mother howled in grief, her eyes red from tears, when she arrived at the fire scene hours after the tragedy.
“I still can’t believe it!” wailed Yesenia Colon as building residents tried in vain to console her. “I can’t move! My baby is gone!”
Neighbor Gisela Stubbs recounted hearing a man screaming “Call the police, there’s a fire!” before she dialed 911 to summon firefighters to the blaze inside NYCHA’s Jackie Robinson Houses. The fire also killed three dogs living in the apartment.
Neighbors described the horrifying sight of the 46-year-old father as he was removed from the apartment.
“He was burned from his head to his feet,” the neighbor recounted. The father was listed in critical condition at Harlem Hospital, where his daughter was pronounced dead.
“We’re praying for his speedy recovery,” said longtime friend Sammy Bravo, who once lived in the building. “We’re rooting for him. He’s a fighter … I’m just glad he’s alive.”
The father’s 36-year-old girlfriend died at Lincoln Hospital after the blaze on E. 129th St. near Lexington Ave., police said. Another resident and a firefighter were taken to local hospitals with minor injuries, an FDNY spokesperson said.
The Dominican-born Stubbs recalled handing the phone to her 15-year-old granddaughter, a fluent English speaker, after dialing 911.
“I’ve never experienced anything like last night,” said the teen-aged Amie Stubbs. “The mother was so caring and fun.”
The fire was contained to the victims’ home.