POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Officials are investigating an apartment blaze that claimed the lives of a child and an infant in Pompano Beach.
Pompano Beach Fire Rescue units responded to the scene of a residential structure fire at the Banyan Club apartments in the area of Northeast 48th Street and 18th Avenue, at 9:30 a.m., Saturday.
Officials said firefighters arrived to smoke billowing from a third-floor apartment. Firefighters conducted a search of the apartment after extinguishing the flames, and discovered a 5-month-old girl and 5-year-old girl dead inside a bedroom.
“Pompano Beach Fire Rescue responded to the scene, they were able to put out the fire, made entry, and that’s when we discovered the two bodies,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Keyla Concepcion.
The victims were identified as Abigail Espinoza and Sofia Melendez.
“My wife called me, she said, ‘I have bad news for you. Your friend’s two daughters are dead,’” said neighbor Carlos Pasadas. “It’s such a sad thing. You don’t expect this to happen.”
The mother of the young girls, 23-year-old Jocelyn Melendez, had left them and her 2-year-old son in the care of her 15-year-old sister while she went to work, BSO officials said.
According to BSO, neighbors who noticed the fire attempted to go inside the apartment but were unsuccessful due to heavy smoke.
“We ran up there to see what happened,” neighbor Emmanuel Dupri said. “Another Hispanic guy that was with me was breaking the windows to see if we could get air out, see if we could go in, but it was just too much smoke.”
Dupri told 7News he had no idea there were children inside the apartment.
“We tried to yell to see if there were any kids. Nobody, no parents or anything, so we just basically let the fire keep going,” he said, “but if we knew there was kids in there, we would have probably went in, we would’ve went in.”
BSO investigators has not confirmed whether the children’s aunt was with the children when the fire broke out.
PBFR inspectors and the State Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the fire.
“Right now we’re looking to determine what happened after the mom left the apartment with the sitter, to see what led to the fire and to see why the kids were left in the apartment,” Concepcion said.
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