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Springfield Gardens fire claims lives of 2 children

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A makeshift memorial of a lonely teddy bear and several candles sat on the sidewalk Tuesday in front of what was once a lively Springfield Gardens home filled with children and family.

After two brothers died in a fast-moving fire at the residence last week, the gutted home remains as a standing testament — with boarded-up windows and charred siding,— to the bravery of 8-year-old Tyanthony Duckette.

Tyanthony escaped the June 17 blaze with his grandmother, Carlota Wilson, at first. But his 17-month-old brother Daniel was still inside and he ran back in to try to save him, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.

He never made it back out and both boys were later pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. Firefighters tried unsuccessfully to save the boys by administering CPR after they were removed from the home, according to an FDNY spokesman. Firefighters put the blaze out in about 30 minutes after responding to the fire in three minutes, according to the FDNY spokesman.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation Tuesday evening, but the FDNY spokesman said “fire marshals are looking at the possibility that a light fixture came into contact with some combustible materials,” such as paper or bedding.

Wilson, 57, was watching over four of her grandchildren, including Daniel and Tyanthony, at the time of the fire, according to the DA.

Wilson and the other two grandchildren made it out alive, as did two men living in the basement and two upstairs tenants.

A man who identified himself only as Jason and lives in the basement of the home at 141-45 182nd St., where the victims lived for nearly a year on the first floor, said he woke up at about 9:15 a.m. to his roommate telling him there was a fire. They ran outside, thinking it was in some bushes in the yard, then saw the flames and smoke pouring out of a side window, peeling the siding away from a section of the home.

“I was sleeping, I woke up and I was halfway still asleep. We saw the fire and smoke coming out the side. I called 911, but somebody had called already and the trucks were pulling up,” he said. “I knew the kids just like ‘hi’ and ‘bye,’ said ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to them, but I wasn’t buddy-buddy with them.”

Clyde Williams said his 7-year-old son Kenny was a neighborhood friend of Tyanthony’s and last saw the 8-year-old the previous weekend.

“It’s such a tragedy,” Williams said. “He was a beautiful kid.”

A neighbor who identified herself only as Sherise said she has an 8-year-old son named Jay and the fact that he and Tyanthony were the same age made the fire hit close to home, particultarly since it took the lives of two brothers.

“That’s why it’s even more heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine not one, but both of your children.”

The deaths were a reminder of how much communities across Queens depend on their firehouses, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) said, and served to illustrate the importance of stopping a proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to close 20 companies throughout the city.

“He is gambling with our lives by proposing cuts to the Fire Department,” Sanders said. “This horrifying incident exposes a hard truth: We have far too few firehouses right now. Our most vulnerable, the children and the elderly, cannot afford these cuts. Their lives will be the first on the line.”

Carolyn Bartley, who lives across the street a few homes down away from the site of the fire, said their section of Springfield Gardens is tight-knit and that folks try to help each other when they are in need.

“If someone dies, something happens, we usually try to give them a donation and support and we definitely will with them,” she said of the family of the two victims.

In order to donate to the victims’ family, contact Sanders’s office at 718-527-4356.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:56 pm, October 10, 2011
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