Just days after a condo building fire displaced 120 people in Bridgeport on New Year's Eve, the community is mourning the death of a 3-year-old girl in an apparent stove fire Sunday that ravaged a condo unit and hospitalized five others, including her mother, the condo owner and three children, while the smoke detectors were disabled.
Sincere Pettway, 3, died in the fire and her mother, Shaneese Pettway, 26, was hospitalized, along with three other children -- Alaia Brandon, 1, Egypt Medina, 2, and Terrell Belle, 7, -- and Brandon's mother, Chakierah Booker, 20 for burns and smoke inhalation.
The blaze broke out at the unit the toddler lived in at the Greentree Condo Complex on Frenchtown Road just after 3 a.m. Sunday morning. The preliminary investigation revealed the fire likely started on the stove in the kitchen and spread up the staircase to the second floor.
As Booker recovers in the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Unit, authorities are investigating why the smoke detectors in her condo unit were disabled and say the tragedy could have been prevented.
When firefighters arrived on scene, residents of the complex told them that a young girl was still inside the condo.
Booker, the woman who owns the condo, rushed back in efforts to rescue 3-year-old Sincere, but she couldn't find her, as the little girl had collapsed outside her crib. However, she was able to rescue the three other children in the home. AJ Perez, the commander for Bridgeport Police Department's detectives, said that "even though she was burned, her hands, her face, she went back in again and tried to locate the last child."
“The mother acted in a heroic manner to help save the lives of the others," Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said.
Jimmy Chirigos, a resident of the condo complex, heard screaming and a gut instinct kicked in when he heard a little girl was trapped in a burning home.
"I just want this girl to survive. That's all I could think about," he said.
Chirigos and fellow neighbors also tried unsuccessfully to run back into the condo to save the girl, but they were met by heavy smoke and flames. He said "we got about three steps up and the smoke was too much," so they couldn't get in.
"I can't get that out of my mind, said Chirigos. "Knowing I have a 2-year-old daughter. That could have been my kid and I didn't get up there in time."
Firefighters arrived soon after and used a ladder to climb to the second-floor window. They located Sincere lying unconscious next to her crib in her second-floor bedroom. She had gone into full cardiac arrest and emergency responders were unable to revive her.
Chirigos watched as firefighters pulled the 3-year-old's body through the window. Sincere succumbed to her injuries at the scene.
"You can't just sit down, lay down after that," Chirigos said.
Her mother, Shaneese Pettway, Booker, Brandon, Medina and Belle are expected to survive. It's unknown how the other mother and three children are connected to the Pettways and whether they are related. Fire officials said they're injured but in "fairly good condition."
The fire was contained to that one condo unit at the end of the building. The residents of the condo unit where the fire happened won't be able to return to the home, according to firefighters, but no other families were displaced.
Medina's father, Rafael was at the scene, but he was not hospitalized.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Councilors were brought in to help those who tried to rescue the toddler, including the firefighters.