Two children dead, two adults critically injured in Cumberland fire
Two children died and four others were injured in a far east side Indianapolis condominium fire Monday morning. Firefighters believe the fire was accidental, but they haven't yet determined the cause.
It happened at Raintree Commons Condominiums at 12010 E. Welland St. Firefighters were called to the scene around 9:30 am. When they arrived, they found smoke pouring from the roof. It took around 20 minutes to get the fire under control, but it was too late to save the victims.
According to police and firefighters, the children who died were ages nine and ten. Their mother jumped from the second floor and she is now in the hospital fighting for her life.
"I am their voice. They are my heart."
Those are the words the mother posted on her Facebook page about her two children, a boy and a girl with autism.
Now that mother clings to life, unable to talk because her lungs are burned after inhaling smoke, unaware those two children, according to police, are likely the two children who died when their Cumberland condo caught on fire.
"The coroner's office is going to have to obtain dental records to positively identify them," said Cumberland Police Chief Michael Crooke.
Police said the mom jumped from a second story window to escape. Her 19-year-old son and his friend escaped from the basement. According to police, that friend ran back in and rescued the woman's 11-year-old son.
"His hands were on fire and he was just screaming about it like something hurt," said one neighbor.
Witness Raymond Alvarez described a chaotic scene.
"I was on my way out on my way to work and saw the fire and I heard somebody screaming, so I ran down and saw the neighbors seeing flames come up in the hallway. I ran and grabbed the two boys out. The other guy was already out screaming and I ran to the house to find fire extinguishers. I couldn't find one. I think they were downstairs; I was in a hurry. So I took a bucket of water and splashed it. He told me his brother and sister and mom were still in the house and I went and grabbed my ladder, tried to bust an upstairs window to help them, but flames were coming out the window; it was already too hot," said Alvarez.
Other neighbors tried to get to the children trapped upstairs.
"They were screaming that they needed a fire extinguisher or a bucket and I called 911 at that point and got the facilities on their way. They got that window busted open and by the time that happened, the smoke was everywhere. It was just too far gone and we just all kind of sat here helpless," said neighbor Andrea Borter.
Police say they're leaning towards the fire starting by accident.
They also say one of the children was known for unscrewing the covers on electrical outlets and playing with wires and putting stuff in the microwave.
"He would put things in there, just to watch 'em burn," said Crooke.
Police said they could know as soon as Tuesday afternoon how and where the fire started, but said there have been no signs of foul play.
"Right now, we don't know if the mother's going to survive or not and we certainly, if the third child that survives, we're not sure what he can tell us," said Crooke.
That third child who made it out, police said, has been released from the hospital and is with family.
Sondra Hayes Hartman is the owner of the fire-ravaged condominiums. Hayes-Hartman said the smoke detectors were working and there were also fire extinguishers in the home. Firefighters have not yet confirmed that information.
"I met Stephanie, that's the mother, and her three children who are severely autistic, and a 21-year-old son who also lived there," said Hartman, who added that it was a "very sad day."
Hayes Hartman said the children's mother was a single mom with three children.
The 19-year-old brother and his friend remain in the hospital, but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.