2-year-old boy perishes in Wahiawa complex fire
A Wahiawa apartment fire yesterday killed a 2-year-old boy who neighbors say was sleeping in a back bedroom when the blaze started.
Firefighters got to the two-story walk-up at 284 California Ave. at about 2:34 p.m., within minutes of when the blaze began, fire Capt. Ah Mook Sang said. The fire happened on the second story in Apartment C-3.
Three other young children, ranging in age from 2 to 8, along with the boy's mother and grandmother, escaped the fire unharmed.
"I see the kid every day," said Elena Eafaele, who lives next door to the burned-out apartment. "It's just sad. I was crying because that could be my niece, that could be my nephew."
Eafaele said she was sitting outside her apartment when she smelled smoke and ran into her neighbor's unit to help them get out. The boy's mother, Eafaele said, appeared to be in shock.
"It happened so fast," Eafaele said. "She was just numb."
Eafaele helped the three children, mother and grandmother escape from their lanai into her apartment and then onto the street below. When they were safe, the mother realized that her youngest child was still inside, sleeping on a sofa in a back bedroom.
She yelled for the baby, and Eafaele ran back into the apartment.
But she did not get very far -- the flames had spread quickly and were blocking her way to the bedroom. Firefighters found the child's body after putting the blaze out. His cause of death is being investigated.
Firefighters have also not determined what started the blaze. One neighbor said the children were playing with a lighter just before the fire started, but officials could not corroborate the report.
The fire destroyed the apartment, and the American Red Cross was assisting the family last night.
An estimate of the damage was not available last night. Adjoining units also sustained smoke and water damage.
Neighbors said the family had lived in the complex for about three years. The apartment had a smoke detector, but it did not go off.
Eafaele's also did not sound, she said.
Jennifer Fukuoka, who lives next door to the walk-up, said she saw smoke coming from the apartment on her way home. In less than a minute, she said, the smoke had turned to large flames, which were spilling out the unit's front door and charring a wooden railing.
"Everything was just so intense," she said.
Fukuoka commended Eafaele for helping the family get out and going back into the burning apartment to try to save the boy.
"She needs an award," Fukuoka said, adding that when firefighters found the boy dead, Eafaele crumpled into tears.
"You could just see it in her eyes. It killed her."
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
» The boy killed in a Wahiawa fire Sunday was 2 years old. A Page A1 article yesterday incorrectly said he was 1.