By Sarina Trangle
A Far Rockaway block spent Easter mourning the death of two 4-year-olds killed in a blaze that the FDNY said was sparked by youth fire play late Saturday night.
The Police Department said stepsiblings Jai’Launi and Aniya Tinglin both succumbed to injuries from the basement blaze that broke out in their grandfather’s home, at 10-31 Bay 30th St.
Elisa De Jesus, who lives nearby, said the two children were often out in the yard playing under the watchful eye of their grandfather, who many know because he spends a significant amount of time tending to his lawn.
“They’re babies,” she said, while carrying two teddy bears to add to a red stuffed animal and flowers left near a small tree in the front yard of the two-story brick home where the fire occurred.
“You see it in the news all the time, and it breaks your heart. But for it to happen so close to home and you know the family,” De Jesus said, trailing off as she shook her head.
A 4-year-old twin of one of the victims, the 63-year-old grandfather and an unrelated 55-year-old who lived in the home were all taken to the hospital and listed in stable condition as of Sunday, the NYPD said. A firefighter was also hospitalized for minor, non-life threatening injuries, the Fire Department said.
The FDNY concluded the flames were triggered by accident because of child fire play, but declined to give details about what sparked the fatal blaze.
Neighbors emphasized that numerous firefighters, police, EMTs and a volunteer Jewish ambulance converged on the block. But some said it took too long for EMS to arrive.
Ryan Raj, who lives on the block, said firefighters were cursing about how long it took for paramedics to get to the fire, and his aunt had almost driven the injured grandfather to the hospital until a voluntary Jewish ambulance crew stepped in. He noted that some ambulances had already departed to take victims to the hospital at that point.
The FDNY said it received a call about the fire at 11:51 p.m. and arrived at the two-story brick home at 11:56 p.m.
Once firefighters confirmed the emergency, EMS was contacted at 12:05 a.m. Sunday and responded by 12:12 a.m., the FDNY said.
The fire was under control by 1:17 p.m., authorities said.
Raj said he came out when the sirens started wailing. He and other neighbors restrained the grandfather, known as Pops on the block, after he ran out with one of the kids and wanted to return for the others. Raj said firefighters had determined it was too dangerous for him to go back in the home.
“His fingertips was burnt, burnt to the white. He was really trying to save them,” Raj said of the unidentified grandfather.
Raj said the last thing Pops asked him was how the two children were faring, and he left for the hospital thinking they were still alive.
“He kept asking, asking about the kids,” Raj said.
Other neighbors said they saw emergency personnel carry the two 4-year-olds onto the lawn and perform CPR and other medical work on them for close to 25 minutes.
“They carried both the babies dead right in front of us,” said Megan Malonuy.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.