In the most tragic and deadly fire to hit a private home in Brooklyn in the last seven years, seven orthodox Jewish siblings were killed after the hot plate in their family home caught fire, engulfing the three-story house with flames and thick smoke.
Of the nine people in the house at the time of the blaze, only the mother, Gayle Sassoon, and her 15-year-old daughter, Tziporah, made it out alive, but are both in the hospital in critical condition.
A neighbor, Arnold Rosenblatt, who called 911 to inform them of the blaze, told reporters that the smoke was so thick “you couldn’t even see the house.”
While firefighters arrived within just three minutes, the blaze was already an inferno, as FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, “It was too late.”
One of the siblings, Sara Sassoon, aged 6, was declared dead at the scene, while the other six died in hospital.
The children’s mother suffered burns over 45 percent of her body while her surviving daughter broke her shoulder and arm after jumping out of a second-floor window.
The victims who suffered burns and smoke inhalation are Yaakob, 5; Sara, 6; Moshe, 8; Yeshua, 10; Rivkah, 11; David, 12; and Eliane, 16.
Nigro told reporters that it would have been impossible for the mother to save her children.
“The fire came up the stairs. The mother would have had to go into the fire to get to the back bedrooms. I think she valiantly tried, although she was badly burned, to get out and get help for her children. It’s a tragedy for this family. It’s a tragedy for this community. It’s a tragedy for our city.”
He added that the fire is “the largest tragedy by fire that this city has had in seven years,” since a Bronx house fire in 2007 which killed 10.
The source of the blaze was a hot plate the family had left on for the Sabbath, which malfunctioned and caught alight.
The father of the children, Gabriel Sassoon, was away on business and therefore out of town for the weekend. He has been notified of the deaths.
A friend of the family, Bonnie, told reporters, “I don’t know if she makes it through this. I don’t know how she’s going to face what happened to her family.”
Another friend, Rose Insel, said, “I pray that she has the sanity. They were a beautiful family. The children used to come with their little shovels and clean my walkway without my asking them. I used to give them lollipops.”