Updated 09/08/14 – 2:55 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Four children were killed and two adults were seriously injured in an apartment fire early Monday in the Roseland neighborhood.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports the first 911 call came in shortly before 3:30 a.m. in the 11200 block of South Vernon Avenue.
“The companies were here in approximately three minutes. Upon arrival, we had heavy fire blowing out the second and third floor windows of this building, and two adults were on the ground. They apparently had jumped from the third floor window,” Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Fox said.
Firefighters said the blaze started on the second floor, and quickly spread to the third-floor apartment where the children died. The fire started from an open flame, possibly from a candle, lighter or cigarette, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.
Relatives have identified the children as 16-year-old Carliysia Clark, a sophomore at Wendell Phillips Academy High School; 13-year-old Carlvon Clark and 12-year-old Shamarion Coleman, who both attended Ida B. Wells Preparatory Elementary Academy; and 7-year-old Eri’ana Patton Smith, who attended Pullman Elementary School.
Firefighters said Carliysia died huddled inside a closet, trying to use her body to shield a younger sibling from the flames.
The children’s mother, Shamaya Coleman, broke several bones jumping from the window. She was initially listed in serious condition Monday morning at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and has been upgraded to good condition. Her boyfriend, Nate Johnson, initially was taken to Christ, but later was tranferred to the burn unit at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. Johnson initially was in critical condition and remains critical as of Monday afternoon.
Witnesses said Coleman and Johnson were screaming for help before they leapt from the window.
“They jumped before the fire department got here, but the fire department did get here immediately. Once they got here, I informed them that there were children in that apartment, but by the time they got here, the whole apartment was already in flames,” neighbor Darlene Jones said.
Langford told WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya an initial investigation by the Office of Fire Investigations determined the fire likely turned fatal because the front door to the third-floor apartment had been left open, allowing the fire to to spread into the living room from the hallway.
Langford said fire investigators were told the children woke up the adults after discovering the fire, but were unable to get out, because the fire blocked their escape.
“For some reason, the front door was left open. Flames came into the living room area, and once the living room ignited, it cut off the escape through the back door, leaving the occupants with no way to get out except the windows,” he said.
Langford also said investigators found no working smoke detectors in the second-floor unit where the fire started, or the third-floor unit where the children died, although there was a working smoke detector in the building’s common area.